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Tuesday, October 26

Homosexuality in the Bible


Excerpts from:
Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. (Roman Catholic theologian Daniel A. Helminiak was ordained a priest in the city of Rome and holds two Ph.D.'s—in theology and psychology )

1. Genesis 19:1–11 tells the story of Sodom, destroyed by fire and brimstone. What was the sin? Ezekiel 16:49 names it outright: "They had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, and did not aid the poor and needy." No mention of sex at all! Same thing in the deuterocanonical book of Wisdom 19:13: "hatred toward strangers." When Jesus sent out his disciples, he told them it would be worse for a town who rejects them than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:5–15).

I also learned this in the seminary. The sin of Sodom was inhospitality towards strangers and the sin of pride. I also learned that Mary Magdalen was NOT a prostitute.
2. According to Leviticus 18:22, "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman: it is an abomination." Abomination sounds pretty bad in contemporary English, but the Hebrew and the ancient Greek translation both use words that mean a religious violation: unclean, impure, taboo—exactly like eating pork or shellfish, sewing two kinds of cloth into one garment, or having a menstrual flow of blood or a seminal emission. In the Hebrew Scriptures, abomination means religious taboo, ritual impurity; it does not imply inherent wrong or sin.
I learned this in the seminary too. Homosexuality is about as serious a sin to catholics as was eating meat on Friday.
3. Romans 1:26–27: "Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another."

The Greek words translated as "unnatural," para physin , would more accurately read "atypical" or "uncustomary." The early Stoic philosophers used these words to mean unnatural, but the words imply no ethical condemnation for the apostle Paul. In Romans 11:24, he applies these same words to God's actions. God grafted the Gentiles into the Jewish people, a wild branch into a cultivated vine. Not your standard modus operandi; rather, an unusual thing to do, i.e., "atypical," nothing more. The whole anti-gay "unnatural" hullabaloo rests on this mistranslation.

Likewise, Paul's other words describing gay sex, "degrading" and "shameless," carry no ethical connotation for Paul. They merely imply social disapproval. Paul is talking about impurities, taboos, uncleanness. He has the ancient Jewish Law about impurity in mind. He says so outright in 1:24.

The whole point of Paul's letter is to insist, with Jesus, that impurity is irrelevant for Christians. He uses gay sex as his example, and he is indifferent to the matter: "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself" (Romans 14:14). In mentioning homosexuality, Paul was merely echoing the Jewish Christians' prejudice in order to win initial approval and a hearing from them. Then he went on to rebuke their self-righteousness.

The religious right makes the mistake of reading their own preoccupations into Paul's terminology. They make the further mistake of uniting verses 26–27 of Romans 1 with verses 28–32. But verse 28 changes topics. Paul is contrasting impurity with real sin. He is not identifying homosexuality, as the Fundamentalists would, with "evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, etc., etc." Far from condemning gay sex, Paul was reprimanding the Jewish Christians for dividing the Christian community over it. Every textual consideration supports this conclusion.
Let's not forget that Paul also suggested that people do not marry unless they are unable to abstain from sex (I Corinthians 7:8–9). That has to be put into context though. When St Paul was writing his letters, people at that time believed that Jesus' return was imminent. They truly believed that they were in the last days. That passage is what got the catholics to demand that their priests wouldn't marry. oy what a mess that turned into.

Romans 2:1: "You therefore have no defence—you who sit in judgement, whoever you may be—for in judging your fellow-man you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, are equally guilty."

Most of all, what did Jesus say about homosexuality?

(He did say a lot about adultery, divorce and remarriage. Those are no no's that the Christian right are conveniently ignoring.)

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