Conservative Evangelicals and Homosexuality - The Bible and Homosexuality (Part 7)

Having cleared the ground for looking at what the Old Testament says about homosexuality in my last blog in this series, I want to look at the three passages that specifically refer to homosexual sexual activity in the Old Testament and think about what they mean for us today.

Genesis 19

Genesis 19 is perhaps the most infamous passage from the Bible on sexual sin. It is from this chapter that the old word “sodomy” was coined. It describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sinful action when God's angels visit Lot (Abraham's nephew). In fact, this passage is famous in the Bible itself, which often refers to Sodom and Gomorrah as a kind of byword for sin (e.g. Isaiah 1:9-10; Matthew 10:15). What is the sin of Sodom? Well in vv.4-5 we read:

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." (NIV)

In v.7 Lot then describes their action as: "this wicked thing" (NIV). I think everyone would agree, but the question is: what is it that is specifically wicked about what the men of Sodom do? It could be the desire for homosexual sex, it could be the gang violence behind that, or it could be both.

The New Testament helps us here. In Jude 7 we read:

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)

This makes it clear that the sin is sexual and the word translated "peversion" seems to refer specifically to their desire for other men (the use of "detestable things" (NIV) or "abomination" (ESV) in Ezekiel 16:49-50 suggests the Old Testament interprets Genesis 19 in the same way).

So while it is undoubtedly the case that the sin in Sodom had a number of aspects, it seems pretty clear that the Bible understands one of those aspects to be homosexual sex.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

In these verses we read a direct prohibition of male homosexual relationships.

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. (Leviticus 18:22 NIV)

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus 20:13 NIV)

Now given that this is part of the law, we need to consider how it applies to Christian believers. It seems fairly clear from the context, which is largely a list of unlawful sexual relationships, to be part of the moral law and thus would generally be thought to be still applicable to the Christian (remembering that the civil law, here expressed in the punishment of death, is not applicable in the same way given that we are no longer the nation state of Israel). Furthermore, we find no indication in the New Testament that these laws are fulfilled in Christ in some way that means homosexual sex (or any of the other sexual activity in the lists) is now acceptable to God. In fact, as we will see in the next blog, Paul seems to refer to these passages in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10 and possibly Romans 1:24 and apply them to Christians (this critically undermines the argument of a few who want to suggest that these laws were actually ceremonial relating to the sexual activities of other religions).

So, where the Old Testament Law speaks of homosexual sex, it is condemned and those laws are apparently part of the moral law, which instead of being altered in the New Testament, are in fact reaffirmed.

Conclusion

While the Old Testament does not spend excessive time discussing homosexual sex, the testimony we do find is clear. There are no passages advocating homosexual sex and the passages that do speak of it are all negative. Moreover these passages are picked up in the New Testament, from which we must conclude that they still apply to the Christian today.

In the next blog, I will turn to look at what the New Testament says.

Other Posts in the this series:



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