By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
Last month’s column made overall observations regarding the Bible’s references to homosexuality and their various ways those references have been interpreted, including those from Genesis 19: 1-5. This month, I will discuss six other misunderstood passages used to marginalize God’s LGBTQ children.
Leviticus 20:13 states “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” At this time in history, life expectancy was low. Big families were necessary to help farm, run a family business and eventually care for aging parents. Wanting children had as much to do with survival as the joy of a family. In addition, abomination can mean to “detest” or to “abhor.” God detests and abhors deceit, divorce and gossip. Some scholars believe abomination in this context means something “culturally unacceptable,” though not having the passionate vitriol specifically directed at LGBTQ individuals as social conservatives insist. In the same chapter references putting to death adulterers (20:10); prohibitions on eating pork (11:7), rabbit (11:6) and some seafood (11:9-10); and proclaiming the day of worship as Saturday, not Sunday (23:3). We should keep scripture in cultural context or it makes little sense, especially if taken literally.
Deuteronomy 23:17 states “… none of the sons of Israel shall be a temple prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a male prostitute into the house of the Lord …” This refers to sex honoring Canaanite fertility gods, particularly in a holy, sacred space dedicated to the God of Moses. Would you want a guest defiling your home? This passage has more to do with respect and paganism, not being LGBTQ. Deuteronomy also directs adulterers (22:22) and rebellious children (21:18-21) be stoned to death; wool and linen not be woven together (22:11); and women falsely claiming to be virgins prior to marriage be put to death (22:13-20). Obviously, death in these cases is not administered in a civilized society.
In Romans 1:26-27, it is written that “… women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women …” There is scholarship suggesting this is about homosexual acts, perhaps by heterosexuals, venerating pagan gods. Romans, comparable to the passage in Corinthians below, has nothing to do with a loving relationship of two people who happen to be of the same gender. It has a lot to do with selling and marketing a new religion while ever mindful of an environment where death and disease were common and procreating for survival was vital.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, it is written that “… fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers” will inherit God’s kingdom. This can mean persons who are unethical or had “soft morals.” Contrary to the soft morals of some heterosexuals, an LGBTQ person can be ethical, hardworking and devoted to God. Just ask an LGBTQ Catholic, Episcopalian, Wiccan, Unitarian, Buddhist, or Muslim, among others. They are good, contributing citizens both to greater society and a faith community.
1 Timothy 1:9-10 states Law is made “… for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane …for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men …” Some translations use “sodomite” in this passage. This is a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodomite put in cultural context refers to greed, inhospitality and failing to help the poor, among other things, shown by the residents. There is no evidence suggesting the cities were destroyed because of homosexuality. Wives, widows, grandparents, and children perished in the destruction.
And finally, in Jude verse 7 , citizens of “Sodom and Gomorrah … [gave] themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh” and suffered … “the vengeance of eternal fire.” Verses in this book refer to the sexual immorality of angels and humans who have sex. Strange flesh is a reference to angels and generally humans, not LGBTQ. God gave humans free choice and not angels. Hence, humans have the choice not to sleep with angels and break God’s law or compromise the divine creatures from heaven.
The Bible is a complicated book culturally, sociologically and theologically. Multiple biblical translations exist. Read several. Do so in conjunction with the work of scholars and theologians. You might be pleasantly surprised.
* Paul is an author, attorney and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. His latest book, The Vampire Benning Wentworth and the End of Times – the War Between Devils and Vampires is now available.