The Bible and homosexuality

One of the most disturbing aspects of the religious right vs. gay rights controversy to those who know the Bible is the misuse made of it by fundamentalists. I suppose it is only natural; those who favour gay rights are often unconcerned with what the Bible may or may not have said.

First, the Bible says nothing about gays just as it says nothing about the importance of observing traffic signals. At the time of the composition of the various books in the Bible (from oral tradition 2000 BC to after 100 AD) there was no awareness of the concept of sexual orientation.

Second, Biblical writers were, however, well aware of the possibility of loving a member of the same sex. The two most beautiful love stories in the Bible concern same-sex relationships: David's with Jonathan, and Ruth's with Naomi. The Bible is quite clear concerning the spiritual and physical nature of David and Jonathan's relationship: "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David" (1Sa18.01), "let us go out into the field" (1Sa20.1), Jonathan's love for David was "wonderful, passing the love of women" (2Sa1.26). The Bible is less clear concerning Ruth and Naomi; perhaps the writer and later transcribers had as much difficulty comprehending the possibility of a physical relationship between women as did Queen Victoria much later.

Third, repeatedly the Bible defines the sin of Sodom as pride and inhospitality (e.g. Ez16.49). The condemnation of Sodom condemns homosexuality no more that the condemnation of rape condemns heterosexuality. Most other references to same-sex behaviour are in relation to temple prostitution. There is but one unambiguous condemnation of same sex physical relations in the Old Testament (Lv18.22), much less than of eating pork (Lv11.7), or wearing fabrics of mixed sources (Lv19.19); that breakfast bacon eaten in a wool and linen shirt is doubly sinful if one is to accept Biblical prohibitions!

It is very selective use of scripture which makes it condemn same-sex relations while accepting in daily life practices much more frequently denounced.

For an account of the 13th century development of homophobia in Christianity, an excellent source is CHRISTIANITY, SOCIAL TOLERANCE, AND HOMOSEXUALITY / John Boswell. -- Chicago, Ill. : University of Chicago Press, 1980.

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Last modified: Monday, 28-Jun-2004 09:10:36 PDT