There are a number of passages in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that have been interpreted as involving same-sex sexual acts and desires. The passages about homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible start as early as the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Several scriptures in the New Testament also reference homosexuality, including the Gospel in the books of Matthew, Luke, and various letters from Saint Paul to the early churches in Asia Minor.
These two verses have historically been interpreted by Jews and Christians as clear overall prohibitions against homosexual acts in general. More recent interpretations focus on the passage's context as part of the Holiness Code, a code of purity meant to distinguish the behavior of the Israelites from the polytheistic Canaanites. One of those interpretations is from Janet Edmonds, which says:
To interpret these passages of Leviticus, it's important to know that this book of the Bible focuses on ritual purity for the Israelites, and setting guidelines for the Israelites to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors, the Egyptians and Canaanites, who lived in the lands before they were settled by the Jews. This is shown in Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20 by three specific scripture passages (Leviticus 18:2-3, 18:24 and 20:23) that state that the Israelites should never do what the Egyptians and Canaanites did.
Analyses by Saul Olyan, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Judaic Studies Program at Brown University, K. Renato Lings, and others focus on ambiguities embedded in the original Hebrew, arguing these ambiguities may not prohibit all erotic expression between men but rather proscribe incest between male family members. They argue English translators of Leviticus added to the original text to compensate for perceived lacunae in the biblical text; but thereby altered the verse's meaning. Leviticus 18:22 reads:
Lings argues the inclusion of prepositions not in the original text and the translation of Leviticus' otherwise unattested mi?kev? within the context of Genesis (i.e., mi?kev? is found only within Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and Genesis 49:4) is crucial to illuminate the incestuous connotation of the passage, and the translation of mi?kev? in light of Genesis results in the text of Leviticus 18 and 20 becoming more cohesive.
The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis does not explicitly identify homosexuality as the sin for which they were destroyed. Some interpreters find the story of Sodom and a similar one in Judges 19 to condemn the violent rape of guests more than homosexuality, but the passage has historically been interpreted within Judaism and Christianity as a punishment for homosexuality due to the interpretation that the men of Sodom wished to rape, or have sex with, the angels who retrieved Lot.
While the Jewish prophets spoke only of lack of charity as the sin of Sodom, the exclusively sexual interpretation became so prevalent among Christian communities that the name "Sodom" became the basis of the word "sodomy", still a legal synonym for homosexual and non-procreative sexual acts, particularly anal or oral sex.
While the Jewish prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Zephaniah refer vaguely to the sin of Sodom, Ezekiel specifies that the city was destroyed because of its commission of social injustice as well as its commission of "abomination:"
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
The Talmudic tradition as written between c. 370 and 500 also interprets the sin of Sodom as lack of charity, with the attempted rape of the angels being a manifestation of the city's violation of the social order of hospitality.
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh..."
This has been interpreted as a reference to homosexuality by some and to the sexual lust of mortals after angels by others. Jewish writers Philo (d. A.D. 50) and Josephus (37 - c. 100) were the first reported individuals to assert unambiguously that homosexuality was among the sins of Sodom. By the end of the 1st century A.D., Jews commonly identified the sin of Sodom with homosexual practices.
The account of David and Jonathan in the Books of Samuel has been interpreted by traditional and mainstream writers as a relationship of affectionate regard. It has also been interpreted by some authors as of a sexual nature. Theologian Theodore Jennings identifies the story as one of desire for David by both Saul and Jonathan, stating, "Saul's jealousy has driven [David] into Jonathan's arms." Michael Coogan addresses the claim of the alleged homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan and explicitly rejects it.
The story of Ruth and Naomi is also occasionally interpreted by contemporary scholars as the story of a lesbian couple. Coogan states that the Hebrew Bible does not even mention lesbianism.
That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.
This passage, part of a larger discourse in 1:18-32, has been debated by some 20th and 21st century interpreters[who?] as to its relevance today, what it actually prohibits and whether it represents Paul's view or rhetoric that Paul is actively arguing against. Clement of Alexandria and John Chrysostom regard it as concerning female and male homosexual intercourse, while Augustine of Hippo views it as referring to heterosexual and homosexual anal sex. Although Christians of several denominations have historically maintained that this verse is a complete prohibition of all forms of homosexual activity, some 20th and 21st-century authors contend the passage is not a blanket condemnation of homosexual acts, suggesting, among other interpretations, that the passage condemned heterosexuals who experimented with homosexual activity or that Paul's condemnation was relative to his own culture, in which homosexuality was not understood as an orientation and in which being penetrated was seen as shameful. These interpretations are, however, in a minority.
Scholars, noting that Romans 1:18-32 represents an exception in the book of Romans as a whole and uses vocabulary elsewhere not seen in Paul's letters, have for decades puzzled over the passage. Several scholars believe these verses are part of a much larger non-Pauline interpolation, a later addition to the letter. Others argue that the grammar of the Greek original demands that Romans 1:18-32 be read as a rhetorical set-up, a summary of Hellenistic Jewish legalist rhetoric that Paul actively forbids followers of Christ from using in Romans 2.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (malakos), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (arsenokoitai), Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Timothy 1:8-11 states:
But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers; For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind (arsenokoitai), for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
In the letter to the Corinthians, within the list of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul uses two Greek words: malakia (?) and arsenokoitai ().
Arsenokoitai is a compound word. Compound words are formed when two or more words are put together to form a new word with a new meaning. In this case, arsenokoitai is from the Greek words arrh?n / ars?n ( / ) meaning "male", and koit?n () meaning "bed", with a sexual connotation. A direct translation would be "male-bed". Its first recorded use was by Paul in 1 Corinthians and later in 1 Timothy 1 (attributed to Paul), and remains unattested in contemporaneous sources. Some scholars consider Paul to have adapted this word by translating, to Greek, the verse from Leviticus 20:13, with additional adaption from the wording of the Septuagint translations of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:23 Due to its unclear definition, English translators struggled with representing the concept of arsenokoitai. It has been variously rendered as "sexual perverts" (RSV), "sodomites" (NRSV), "abusers of themselves with mankind" (KJV), "men who have sex with men" (NIV) or "practicing homosexuals" (NET).
Malakia (?, "softness", "weakliness") is an ancient Greek word that, in relation to men, has sometimes been translated as "effeminacy". Also translates to "of things subject to touch, "soft" (used in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 to describe a garment); of things not subject to touch, "gentle"; and, of persons or modes of life, a number of meanings that include "pathic". However, in modern Greek it has come to mean "masturbation", and its derivative ? - malakas means "one who masturbates".
Bishop Gene Robinson says the early church seemed to have understood it as a person with a "soft" or weak morality; later, it would come to denote (and be translated as) those who engage in masturbation, or "those who abuse themselves"; all that is factually known about the word is that it means "soft".[better source needed]
Most scholars hold that Paul had two passages of the Book of Leviticus, 18:22 and 20:13, in mind when he used the word (which may be of his coinage) with most commentators and translators interpreting it as a reference to male same-sex intercourse. However, John Boswell states that it "did not connote homosexuality to Paul or his early readers", and that in later Christian literature the word is used, for instance, by Aristides of Athens (c. 138) clearly not for homosexuality and possibly for prostitution, Eusebius (d. c. 340) who evidently used it in reference to women, and in the writings of 6th-century Patriarch John IV of Constantinople, known as John the Faster. In a passage dealing with sexual misconduct, John speaks of arsenokoitia as active or passive and says that "many men even commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives". Although the constituent elements of the compound word refer to sleeping with men, he obviously does not use it to mean homosexual intercourse and appears to employ it for anal intercourse, not generic homosexual activity. Particulars of Boswell's arguments are rejected by several scholars in a way qualified as persuasive by David F. Greenberg, who declares usage of the term arsenokoites by writers such as Aristides of Athens and Eusebius, and in the Sibylline Oracles, to be "consistent with a homosexual meaning". A discussion document issued by the House of Bishops of the Church of England states that most scholars still hold that the word arsenokoites relates to homosexuality. Another work attributed to John the Faster, a series of canons that for various sins provided shorter though stricter penances in place of the previous longer penances, applies a penance of 80 days for "intercourse of men with one another" (canon 9), explained in the Pedalion as mutual masturbation - double the penalty for solitary masturbation (canon 8) - and three years with xerophagy or, in accordance with the older canon of Basil the Great, 15 without (canon 18) for being "so mad as to copulate with another man" - in the original - explained in the Pedalion as "guilty of arsenocoetia (i.e., sexual intercourse between males)" - in the original. According to the same work, ordination is not to be conferred on someone who as a boy has been the victim of anal intercourse, but this is not the case if the semen was ejaculated between his thighs (canon 19). These canons are included, with commentary, in the Pedalion, the most widely used collection of canons of the Greek Orthodox Church, an English translation of which was produced by Denver Cummings and published by the Orthodox Christian Educational Society in 1957 under the title The Rudder.
In Matthew 19 and parallel in Mark 10, Jesus is asked if a man can divorce his wife. In that context, Jesus replies:
He answered, "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female',[b] and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."-- Matthew 19:4-6 (NRSV)
Robert A. J. Gagnon, a theologian, argues that Jesus's back-to-back references to Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 show that he "presupposed a two-sex requirement for marriage". On the other hand, Bart Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, states of Jesus's references to Genesis 1 and 2, "[Jesus is] not actually defining marriage. He's answering a specific question." Ehrman notes further "And here the conversation is quite easy. In our surviving records Jesus says nothing about same-sex acts or sexual orientation. Nothing. Nada."
In Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, Jesus heals a centurion's servant who is dying. Daniel A. Helminiak writes that the Greek word pais, used in this account to refer to the servant, was sometimes given a sexual meaning. Donald Wold states that its normal meaning is "boy", "child" or "slave" and its application to a boy lover escapes notice in the standard lexica of Liddell and Scott and Bauer. The Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott registers three meanings of the word ? (pais): a child in relation to descent (son or daughter); a child in relation to age (boy or girl); a slave or servant (male or female). In her detailed study of the episode in Matthew and Luke, Wendy Cotter dismisses as very unlikely the idea that the use of the Greek word "pais" indicated a sexual relationship between the centurion and the young slave.
Matthew's account has parallels in Luke 7:1-10 and John 4:46-53. There are major differences between John's account and those of the two synoptic writers, but such differences exist also between the two synoptic accounts, with next to nothing of the details in Luke 7:2-6 being present also in Matthew. The Commentary of Craig A. Evans states that the word pais used by Matthew may be that used in the hypothetical source known as Q used by both Matthew and Luke and, since it can mean either son or slave, it became doulos (slave) in Luke and huios (son) in John. Writers who admit John 4:46-53 as a parallel passage generally interpret Matthew's pais as "child" or "boy", while those who exclude it see it as meaning "servant" or "slave".
Theodore W. Jennings Jr. and Tat-Siong Benny Liew write that Roman historical data about patron-client relationships and about same-sex relations among soldiers support the view that the pais in Matthew's account is the centurion's "boy-love" and that the centurion did not want Jesus to enter his house for fear the boy would be enamoured of Jesus instead. D.B. Saddington writes that, while he does not exclude the possibility, the evidence the two put forward supports "neither of these interpretations", with Wendy Cotter saying that they fail to take account of Jewish condemnation of pederasty.
In Matthew 19:12, Jesus speaks of eunuchs who were born as such, eunuchs who were made so by others, and eunuchs who choose to live as such for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus's reference to eunuchs who were born as such has been interpreted by some commentators as having to do with homosexual orientation; Clement of Alexandria, for instance, cites in his book "Stromata" (chapter III,1,1) an earlier interpretation from Basilides that some men, from birth, are naturally averse to women and should not marry. "The first category - those eunuchs who have been so from birth - is the closest description we have in the Bible of what we understand today as homosexual."
The Ethiopian eunuch, an early Gentile convert described in Acts 8, has been interpreted by some commentators as an early gay Christian, based on the fact that the word "eunuch" in the Bible was not always used literally, as in Matthew 19:12. Some religious commentators suggest that the combination of "eunuch" together with the title "court official" indicates a literal eunuch who would have been excluded from the Temple by the restriction in Deuteronomy 23:1.
Contemporary exegetes have perceived lesbian undertones in the relationship between Ruth and Naomi.38 38. See Rebecca Alpert, "Finding Our Past: A Lesbian Interpretation of the Book of Ruth," Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story, ed. Judith A. Kates and Gail Twersky Reimer (New York: Ballatine Books, 1994). Lesleigh Cushing Stahlberg calls the book of Ruth "the prooftext the religious left needs for sanctioning forbidden marriages." Stahlberg, "Modern Day Moabites: The Bible and the Debate About Same-Sex Marriage," Biblical Interpretation 16 (2008): 474.
Among feminist authors perceptions of the book's message and value have varied widely, with some seeing the story as a model for lesbian relationships (Alpert), and others as a celebration of the relationship between two strong and resourceful women (Brenner 1983).
These are contained in several collections; the most widely used today in Greek-speaking Orthodoxy is the Pedalion.60 60 The Rudder (Pedalion) of the Orthodox Christians or All the Sacred and Divine Canons, ed. C. Cummings (Orthodox Christian Educational Society, Chicago, Illinois, 1957), from the metaphor of the church as a ship, 'the members of the Church [are] guided on their voyage through life by means of the holy canons'.