More on Homosexuality in the Bible
Q: What are the references to homosexuality in the Bible?
Father Edart: This subject is given very little coverage in the Bible. This is linked to the absence of the visibility of this phenomenon, and that is a logical consequence of the prohibition of this behavior.
The biblical texts which address the question of homosexuality directly or indirectly are:
In the Old Testament
Genesis 19:7-8: "I beg you, my brothers, not to do this wicked thing. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. But don't do anything to these men."
Judges 19:23-24: "No, my brothers; do not be so wicked. Since this man is my guest, do not commit this crime. Rather let me bring out my maiden daughter or his concubine. Ravish them, or do whatever you want with them; but against the man you must not commit this wanton crime."
Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination."
In the New Testament
1 Corinthians 6:9: "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor sodomites ... will inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Timothy 1:10: "... law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly ... the unchaste, practicing homosexuals, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching."
Romans 1:26-27: "Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity."
Q: You quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. How should these texts be understood?
Father Edart: These two texts contain a list of vices presented as unacceptable for access to the kingdom of God.
In 1 Corinthians, two Greek words make reference to homosexuality: "malakos," translated here as "homosexuals," and "arsenokoites," translated as "sodomites."
These terms are very rare: "Malakos" appears only here in St. Paul, as for "arsenokoites," it is the first recurrence in the whole of Greek literature.
"Malakos" means, literally, "gentle, silky, delicate." In a homosexual relationship, it designates the passive partner, but it can also refer to homosexual prostitutes or very effeminate men.
The study of the meaning of "arsenokoites," and the clearly sexual context of the list of prohibitions invalidate these last two marginal interpretations.
"Arsenokoites" means literally "to lie with a man." Formed by the association of two words present in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, it quite probably appeared in the Judeo-Hellenistic context. Rabbis used the Hebrew expression "lie with a man," taken from the Hebrew text of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, to express the homosexual relationship.
They did not limit it to pederasty. All these elements seem sufficient to us to affirm that the most plausible theory is that this term refers to men having the active role in relations of a homosexual nature. The meaning of "arsenokoites" allows one to limit the meaning of "malakos" to the passive partner in a homosexual relationship.
Homosexual acts, therefore, are considered extremely grave, directly offending the divine Law. This teaching is perfectly consistent with Judaism of that time.
No distinction is related to a question of sexual orientation, or of circumstances of the act, nor is it indicated. It is the act itself which is condemned.
Q: And Romans 1:18-32?
Father Edart: St. Paul presents acts of a homosexual nature in men as well as women as a consequence of God's wrath. Research was substantiated around the precise nature of this homosexuality and of the interpretation which that passage should be given.
The Apostle wished to illustrate the nature of the ungodliness. He used homosexuality for that, vice characteristic of pagans in the Jewish tradition.
Based on the creation account in Genesis 1 and in Deuteronomy 4, he established the link between homosexuality and idolatry. In idolatry, man is dominated by the creature he adores, thus not rendering that corresponds only to the Creator.
What takes place is an inversion of the initial, manifested divine plan, among other things, in the sexual difference. In the act of a homosexual nature, this differentiation is not taken into consideration. This is why it constitutes for Paul the best illustration possible of ungodliness.
Another difficulty of interpretation of this text is the meaning of "against nature." In Roman culture, the adjective "natural" characterized acts in accord with social conventions.
Thus in Greco-Roman culture, beyond the feminine-masculine structure masculine is the dominant relationship it governed who established the moral norm in a loving relationship.
The allusion to Genesis 1 in Romans 1:19-23 invites us to see in "nature" the order willed by God and identifiable in creation. That is translated, among other things, by the man-woman sexual difference, fundamental structure willed by God as expression of his being of communion.
God willed the sexual union of man and woman, and this divine will, or divine Law, inscribed in nature is perceptible by reason. Man can observe this through all the elements that characterize sexual identity, genitalia being one of these signs.
If we wish to take into consideration the Roman meaning of this term, we could say that the act against nature does not respect the social convention established by God in creation.
The reference to Genesis 1 allows one to understand that this prohibition in no way is invalidated by questions of "tendencies" or orientation. It is every homosexual act in its materiality which is contrary to the divine will manifested in the beginning, whether imposed or consented.
Attention to the literal sense of the New Testament texts shows clearly therefore that homosexual acts are considered as gravely contrary to the divine Law. It is important to understand that this negative moral qualification is the logical consequence of a more positive side.
God willed to create man to be in alliance with him. This was manifested in the beginning in the sexual difference. The communion between man and woman is the first revelation of the love of God for man.
The difference allows for the expression of a complementarity, thus making possible the gift of persons. The sexed body manifests this. The teaching of the Church is in perfect continuity with what Scripture says on this subject.
Q: There are those who say that there are examples of homosexual relationships in the Old Testament. Some say David and Jonathan, for example, had a relationship of this type.
Father Edart: The account in 1 Samuel 18:1-5 shows gestures and words that express a profound attachment between Jonathan and David.
Although the terms used describe a real affective bond, their usual use in the Old Testament in no way allows for seeing a homosexual relationship there. For an example you can see Jacob and his son Benjamin in Genesis 44:30-31. The expression "to love as oneself" as his soul is frequent Leviticus 19:18.34.
The verb "to love," in a context of alliance, takes on a political dimension, the beneficiary being considered as partner or superior. Moreover, the gift that Jonathan made to David of his weapons illustrates the transfer of his prerogatives, among which was the right of succession to his father's throne. It's a political gesture. In the account, nonetheless, David ends up replacing Jonathan 1 Samuel 23:17.
Other passages, developed by Innocent Himbaza in our book, illustrate the friendship between Jonathan and David. All the gestures posed between these two men, however, can take place between parents and children Jacob and Benjamin; between brothers Joseph and his brothers; between father-in-law and son-in-law Jethro and Moses; between close friends Jonathan and David; between warriors Saul and David, Jonathan and David; and between brothers and sisters in the faith Paul and the Ephesians. We risk interpreting the latter askew here, but these are actually normal and usual gestures for people who feel close to one another.
We can affirm that nothing in the texts we are faced with allow for seeing any homosexuality between David and Jonathan, not even implicitly. If at times an expression is ambiguous for a modern spirit, reading it in context removes that possibility.
Q: The Church preaches love of neighbor, but is often reproached for wanting to put "barriers" to love, for not understanding every person's profound need to love. If the Church does not approve homosexuality, what message of hope can she give to a person who finds in homosexuality the means to give himself and to love?
Father Edart: The suffering of a homosexual person can be very great and not accessible to people who do not experience this situation.
Indeed, our whole world is marked by this fundamental fact of heterosexual love. Even the Chinese civilization, hardly susceptible to having been shaped by Judeo-Christian culture, also lives this reality. In that civilization, homosexuality is also perceived as outside the norm.
The homosexual person experiences an internal suffering, attested by psychological studies, but he also suffers from his confrontation with a world that very often will judge and condemn him.
This rejection will often even be violent. In fact, everybody passes a phase in their psychological development of ambiguity on the sexual plane in adolescence. A person might be, for some time, attracted by persons of the same sex, without being for all that a homosexual! If this stage of growth is badly lived or unfinished, it results in psychic suffering.
Subsequently, every confrontation with homosexuality will trigger this suffering, which will be translated in violent behavior. To learn to consider a homosexual person without reducing him to his sexual orientation can be difficult and lead to recognizing one's personal poverty.
In the face of this situation, the Church, in fidelity to the Bible, recognizing that active homosexuality cannot be a good for the person, forcefully affirms, in the same fidelity to the word of God, that every person, regardless of his sexual orientation, has the same dignity and in no way must be the object of unjust discrimination. As every baptized person, homosexual persons are called to holiness and to live here and now a living relationship with Christ in the Church.
The message of the Gospel is a source of hope for these persons and the Church witnesses to this. Christian communities can be places where people see their personal suffering accepted and understood. The latter will then be able, with the support of these communities, to seek to correspond to God's call.
We have a magnificent example of this in the friendship between Julien Green and Jacques and Raissa Maritain. Homosexual persons thus witness today that they have been able to walk with the support of other Christians and to build a happy life. The development of friendly and fraternal relations lived in chastity is an important place of psychological and spiritual healing.
Friendship with Christ is certainly the principal support and guide on this path. He is the best of friends. This friendship is nourished in the life of faith, prayer and the sacraments. The homosexual person desirous of progressing toward Christ will find an indispensable support there. He wants to be in alliance with each one by meeting the person just as he is and to conduct him to himself gradually with the continuous and unconditional support of his mercy.
It's a long and difficult but possible path. It is certain that the development of homosexuality in our Western society is an appeal to Christians to create new places to help those who are wounded in their sexuality.
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