Friday, August 1, 2014

The Bible does not Condemn Homosexuality: Romans 1

Romans 1:26&27

First it is imperative to understand the context here. Romans is one of the most important books of The Bible, Chuck Missler often calls it the most definitive statement of Christian doctrine.  But it is compartmentalized in it’s focus. The first 8 chapters are NOT about how Christians should live but about fully nailing down the matter of Salvation. That we are justified by Faith alone, other issues being addressed are incidental. Romans 9-11 are about Israel, 9 Israel’s past, 10 Israel’s present and 11 Israel’s future.  The remainder of the book after that addresses how Christians should live.

One thing Paul is doing here is addressing the prejudices that exist between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. All with the purpose of explaining that there is no difference between a Jew and a Gentile when it comes to Salvation. The first chapter is Paul negatively describing Roman (and probably also Greek) culture from a typical Jewish POV, but he goes on in chapter 2 to turn it on it’s head and inform them that they're not any better.

Next is that the behavior being described is not itself Rome’s problem, but a product of it. It’s earlier in this chapter that Paul says in verses 19-23
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” 
We don’t know a whole lot about very early Roman history, thanks to many records being destroyed by the Gaul’s sack of Rome in 390 B.C. But we know from Plutarch that Numa Pompilius, the second Pre-Republic king of Rome had outlawed Idolatry and frequently used Monotheistic terminology, and his outlawing of Idolatry was kept for over 140 years. Cicero in his Nature of The gods makes, (as a Pre-Christian gentile who died around 40 B.C.) all the basic common sense arguments for Intelligent Design that are so well known today. If your unable to find the book to read for yourself, the key passages are quoted here.
http://www.ldolphin.org/cooper/ch1.html

The sin of Rome was rejecting God as the Creator.  And it should be pointed out that the verses in question follow this discussion of Rome's idolatry.

Verse 25 "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."

But also a Strong Argument can be made that Romans 1:18-32 is a rhetorical speech Paul does not agree with, maybe even him quoting someone Else's words, there are similarities to the Apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon and Philo that have been pointed out, a lot of words used here are ones Paul uses rarely if ever in the rest of Scripture, it's generally not his usual style.  And in Romans 2 he refutes that rant.

Now for the two verses in question, 26&27.

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”

Some take the above wording to make this the one passage that does condemn Female homosexual affection.  Even if it is, if you only have one verse on something, you shouldn't build doctrine on it.

That’s really not the case however. There is something “unnatural” being done by women we’re told. Then when we’re told men are doing something "likewise", but it’s specified to be homosexual only for the men, even though it‘s the same thing the women are doing. If this is a specific sexual act, then the implication is it’s something that would have to be a homosexual act for a male to engage in it, but not necessarily so for a female, maybe even just the opposite. The primary act that comes to mind that fits that description is being the passive partner during anal sex.

But so many people I've argued this with just can't comprehend this. To them Paul clearly says "and likewise also", that means they're doing the same thing as in being same-sex relations. But the concept of orientation is a modern 19th century invention. In terms of the actual acts they perform, Lesbians and Gay men do not do the same thing. In fact what they do is arguably even more different form each other then either is from heterosexual intercourse. Lesbians tend to do things involving the parts of their anatomy unique to women. And male homosexuals that which is unique to males. In no way could they actually be confused as doing the same thing. Only a very modern way of thinking puts them in the same box.

"Natural use" clearly means a specific act. In my view that "natural use" being left is the use of standard intercourse involving female anatomy.   I could argue "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman". Is what's defining the similarity, and then the elaboration on Homosexuality is something needed only for the Men. The word for woman in both verses is not Gune, the standard Greek word for Woman/Wife. It's Thelus, a word used in total only five times in The New testament. Twice in these verses rendered woman by the KJV, the other three times it's rendered "female". But it's used in a different form both times here. In verse 26 is the only time it's plural. In verse 27 it's used with a special emphasis qhleiaV, while it's just ghlu the times it's clearly refers to female individuals. I could justifiably translate this "leaving the natural use of the female anatomy", because the root from which the word is derived is frequently used in reference to breast feeding.

The word translated "use" also means function. It is at least an equally valid interpretation that it means the "natural function" of vaginal intercourse in exchange for anal.

Greek is a very precise language, the words translated "receiving" and "recompense", are both economic terms. Meaning in the Greek it’s implied that this is also prostitution of some form. The same kind of ritual prostitution discussed earlier did also go on in ancient Rome, just the names of the goddesses had changed.

The phrase translated "against Nature" is also used of God's actions in Romans 11, grafting gentiles into the Tree of Israel.

1 Corinthians 11:14-15: "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering."

The word rendered "shame" there is the same as Vile in the Romans verses in question. This passage is the most similar to Romans 1 in-terms of how Paul used those key words. Yet we don't interpret them similarly. There are Pastors who take a more Pharasitic approach to this Corinthians passage then I find appropriate, Paul intends this to be advice for how Christians present themselves, not actual Moral Law.  But even they don't interpret this as harshly as they do the Romans 1 usage.

The word translated men is Arsen (Strong # 730), I would render it "males" as I tend to view it basically as the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Zakar. This word will be important latter.

In his fourth homily on Romans John Chrysostom (Fourth Century) had a very harsh view of the activity being condemned here.
"for suppose I were to see a person running naked, with his body all besmeared with mire, and yet not covering himself, but exulting in it, I should not rejoice with him, but should rather bewail that he did not even perceive that he was doing shamefully." He also said: “ But nothing can there be more worthless than a man who has pandered himself. For not the soul only, but the body also of one who hath been so treated, is disgraced, and deserves to be driven out everywhere.”

However, he emphasizes, in P.G. 60:417, col. 1, near bottom of the column,that he (and Paul) is not referring to two men who are in love with one another, but who burn in their appetite for each other. He writes, clarifying Paul's position in Romans 1,
“ he did not say that they fell in love [< "eros"] or had passion for each other, but rather that they `burned in their appetite for each other'.”
This is not helpful particularly for determining what is in mind here, unless it's just a matter of saying lust is wrong but not love. But it shows even early Church Fathers didn't always necessarily view it as condemning all male homosexual affection. I'd add to pointing out that Paul didn't use the word "Eros" that he didn't use "Agape" either, a word he does use often elsewhere, in contexts that definitely include but aren't limited to Romantic Love between a man and a woman.  Nor did he use "Phileo", but that tends to have more brotherly love in mind so isn't very relevant.  The translation in the Link I provided is.
"For he does not say that they were enamoured of, and lusted after one another, but, they burned in their lust one toward another."
Still, being post Constantine, Chrysostom's own views were already a product of much Platonic influence on the Early Church. So I'd hardly endorse him.

One interpretation I've seen some fellow Pro-Gay rights Christians put forward is that this condemns men who aren't "naturally homosexual" engaging in homosexual acts. That is possibly an element of it, but the question is why, why are these men doing something against their general preference?  The cause of this effect is Idolatry.

Another incorrect alternative presented by some is that it just condemns the pederastic relationships common in Greek culture. But this is about Rome where that wasn't as condoned. Though sometimes the relationships Roman soldiers had with male slaves is viewed as analogous to that, but it's really not. There is no good indicator that's what's in mind here.
Philo on shrine prostitution.
“(40) And I imagine that the cause of this is that among many nations there are actually rewards given for intemperance and effeminacy. At all events one may see men-women [androgynes] continually strutting through the market place at midday, and leading the processions in festivals;
and, impious men as they are, having received by lot the charge of the temple, and beginning the sacred and initiating rites, and concerned even in the holy mysteries of Ceres
[Ceres is another name for Cybele, the fertility goddess first century Romans referred to as the Mater Deum or Mother of the gods]. Remember, Philo lived from 20 BC to AD 40. He probably wrote this around AD 35.
(41) And some of these persons have even carried their admiration of these delicate pleasures of youth so far that they have desired wholly to change their condition for that of women, and have castrated themselves and have clothed themselves in purple robes...
[Philo here describes the castrated Galli priests who served Cybele or other fertility goddesses worshiped in Rome].
(42) But if there was a general indignation against those who venture to do such things, as was felt by our lawgiver..." [Moses was the Jewish Lawgiver. Philo refers to Moses' writings in Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:17]
Philo, The Special Laws, III, VII, 40-42.

Philo of Alexandria, clearly links the same concerns of Torah passages addressing the Qadeshim to things going on in his contemporary society. Also contemporary with Paul. Philo also condemns Pederasty in this same section of his work. But no evidence he considered all homosexual affection a Sin.

I'm citing Philo even though he is not always in agreement with me on these issues. He has been cited as being the first to insert Homophobia into the Judeo-Christian tradition, including being the first to suggest same-sex affection was the Sin of Sodom.  I think he did so partly in-response to these Pagan practices that were abhorrent to him, and partly from his Platonic influence.

So again, while activity that’s homosexual in nature is relevant, it’s also more specific then that. Paul is not condemning all homosexuals.

Now I want to address something I saw one particular Pastor who I don't want to name say on this passage. He takes "For this cause God gave them up" to mean homosexuals (he prefers to say fags and queers) are not even eligible for Salvation anymore. That, really disturbs me.

He backs this up by saying that the Bible never commands us to preach the Gospel to Homosexuals. There are a lot of specific groups The Bible doesn't specifically say to preach to, that's why we're simply commanded to Preach it to the WHOLE WORLD.

Now, leavening aside for a moment what the sin here is. The concept of God giving people over to a certain Sin appears elsewhere in The Bible. It never renders one ineligible for Salvation, it's often done in reference to people already Saved. This same Pastor happens to agree with me on using the narrative of Saul to back up the Doctrine of Eternal Security. Well the Evil Spirit that troubled Saul came from The LORD.

It may or may not be possible for an unsaved person to reach a point where they're not capable of becoming a Believer anymore, the Blasphemy of The Holy Spirit issue is something I still struggle with. But no specific external Sin should be viewed as evidence of such a thing. It's clear from the context of the entirety of the first three Chapters of Romans that no Sin discussed there is meant to be viewed as beyond the Saving Power of the Shed Blood of Jesus. Because he ultimately tells his readers that they're no better then the unsaved Romans they were criticizing.

This video's approach to Romans 1 is mostly compatible with my own.  I wouldn't recommend the companion videos on the other passages as much.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZygH8d0XL0

5 comments:

  1. Hey man. I'm totally into what you're saying here, and I don't know if you'll even get this comment since this post is like, two years old, but I'm a fact-checker, as much as I can be, and I've scoured several different online copies of Chrysotum's 4th Homily on Romans, and I canNOT for the life of me, find that which you quoted: "However, he emphasizes, in P.G. 60:417, col. 1, near bottom of the column,that he (and Paul) is not referring to two men who are in love with one another, but who burn in their appetite for each other. He writes, clarifying Paul's position in Romans 1,
    “ he did not say that they fell in love [< "eros"] or had passion for each other, but rather that they `burned in their appetite for each other'.”
    And I found this very text on the Wikipedia page about the subject. Hey man, c'mon. can you point me to that phrase? please tell me you're not messin' with us, here.

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    1. For the time being I receive Email notifications of all Comments left.

      I thought I had copied quote from Wikipedia somewhere, might have gotten removed. I"ll have to look into it again and if it turns out to be inauthentic I'll remove it.

      Thanks for pointing this out to me.

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    2. All three quotes I found here

      http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/210204.htm

      After doing word searches with my firefox browser for first naked, then pandered and then burned.

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    3. Actually, I think that link was one of the online copies I looked at. And I found the line! It uses different wording than the Wikipedia quote. "Enamored" instead of "fell in love with", or "passion". That's why I couldn't find it before. Be careful to cite those Wikipedia quotes, man. That whole phrase, including the location of the Chrysostom quote in the homily, is right off the wiki page. I just don't want you to hurt your credibility, because it seems like you're doing some important work here. And btw, it was me that left a similar comment on your personal website, cuz I wasn't sure you'd get the comments posted here. And one final thing: do you cite your credentials anywhere? You seem quite knowledgeable, so I'm wondering if you went to seminary, are a practicing theologian? You refer to this piece on homosexuality as a dissertation. Anyway, I'll keep reading, I'm interested. Cheers

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    4. Thank you for the advice, I'll be editing this some more soon, after looking for anything else I might wanna touch up.

      I'm not a professional scholar in any way. Just someone trying to do what The Holy Spirit leads me to.

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