Answers about Homosexuality

I recently had a post about whether a person could be born gay.  Is is possible for a person to actually be born gay?  If so, what is the Biblical response?

Question 1: Isn’t “Abomination” a culture reference rather than a spiritual/sin reference?

The question points to the use of the Hebrew word “Toevah.”  It occurs 126 times in the Old Testament and it means “a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable.”  It carries both a ritual and an ethical sense.

The ritual use of the word relates to Jewish law relating to unclean food, idols, marriage to non Jews, etc.  It is an abomination for a Jew to worship an idol (Deuteronomy 7:25, 27:15).

The word also carries an ethical or moral distinction.  When Jewish practices were considered wicked, they are often described using “toevah.”  These types of practices are described  in Leviticus 18 and 20.  Those things that are considered wicked include, sexual relations with animals, homosexual acts, etc.

An important point to note is that Leviticus 18 begins by telling the Jewish people that the statutes and judgments that are about to be given are from the LORD.  These are His ways.  They are not to do the things that Egyptians or the Canaanites did, they are to walk according to His laws.

The homosexual act is a detestable thing.  It is an abomination.  It is an ethical or moral offense.  Leviticus 18:30 says “Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.”  The “toevah” customs of the Canaanites, if practiced, defiles oneself with God.  This is sin.  It is not an expression of a cultural exclusion.  It relates to the very nature of God’s law and is to be understood as sin.

Question 2:  Shouldn’t the term translated “Homosexual” in the New Testament be better translated “effeminate”?

Paul, in I Corinthians 6, relates certain behaviors or practices that are inconsistent with Christian living.  In that list he includes idolaters and adulterers as well as “malakos” and “arsenokoites.”  The question is related to the meaning of these two Greek terms.

Do they refer to homosexual behavior or does it refer to some other type of behavior that would exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven?

The word “malakos” is used three times in the New Testament.  It is found in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 translated “soft.”  It is used to refer to clothing that is soft to the touch.  It is used a third time in I Corinthians 6:9 and the translators have used the English word “effeminate.”  With such little usage in the NT it is difficult to draw an accurate interpretation of the word.

It is obvious from the context in Corinthians that the meaning differs from the meaning in Matthew and Luke.  The Corinthians passage has no reference to clothes and there is no reason to assume from other portions of Scripture that preferring soft fabrics for ones clothing is a sin and would make one unworthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the Greek culture,  the use of the word “malakos” had a metaphorical meaning beyond the term “soft.”  According to Thayer’s Lexicon, the terms alternate meaning is “effeminate, of a catamite, a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness.”

“Malakos” as used by Paul in I Corinthians must be understood to mean a male youth who is engaged in sexual relationships with a man.  It is a homosexual sex act that might be best described as pedophilia.

At best this term would be aptly translated homosexual and at worst it would be translated pedophile.

The second term used, “arsenokoites,” in the text is used two times in the New Testament.  In both instances the term is translated homosexual.  It is found in I Corinthians 6:9 and in I Timothy 1:10.  Both passages are list of sins that should not be found in the life of the believer.

There is no ambiguity with the meaning of this word.  The term literally means “one who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite.”

Paul is not using ambiguous terms to describe this sinful behavior.  It is a homosexual act that is included in the list of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Question 3: What does Paul mean in Romans 1, “exchange the natural function”?

The interesting thing about this passage to me is that it is the clearest exposition on homosexuality in the New Testament.  Paul explains the progression to homosexuality in a clear and sound argument.  This is a passage that is difficult to twist because Paul is so clear.

The use of the phrase “exchange the natural function” in Romans 1:26 is defined more clearly by the same usage in verse 27.  This phrase is explicitly related to abandoning heterosexual relationships and committing “indecent acts” in a homosexual relationship.

Verse 26 is specific to lesbian relationships and verse 27 is specific to gay relationships.  Paul clearly explains that this type of behavior is contrary to the plan and purpose of God.

Conclusion:

The conclusion of the matter is that homosexuality is a sin along the same line as adultery, greed, envy, malice, stealing, etc.  Paul explains that these behaviors are not to be part of the Christian life.  He says in I Corinthians 6 that some believers where once engaged in these various behaviors.  But as a Christian, it should no longer be a part of our life.

Will we fail? Sure.  Will we struggle with sin? Absolutely.  But that is not an excuse to continue to sin.  Paul asked, “Shall we continue to sin so that Grace may abound?”  His response was “May it never be!”

4 thoughts on “Answers about Homosexuality

  1. Alan,

    Thanks for the reply. However, I don’t understand how we can throw out the “toevot” of unclean foods and clothing if the term “toevah” actually means that it is an abomination to God. If the term “toevah” in fact means, “a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable” in a moral sense, don’t we have to follow all of the laws where that term is mentioned? From my study and reading, the term “toevah” references things that pagans of the time did. God wanted to set apart the Israelites from the pagans AT THAT TIME.

    Why did he set them apart? Because God knows what is good for us and bad for us. He knew that AT THE TIME, certain foods were not safe for eating. He knew that certain clothing materials were not safe and good for weaving together. In every instance, “toevah” is a reference to cultural taboos. The statement “men laying with men as with a woman” (and the entire chapter of Lev 18) is in reference to uncleanliness for the Israelites. In fact, many argue that the entire book of Leviticus is meant ONLY for the Israelites and Jews. It has no place for those outside.

    However, if in fact God is stating that these acts are a moral abomination for all people and not just something culturally unclean or taboo for the Jews, why would the author use the word toevah? There is a much better Hebrew word to describe broad sinful and immoral activity. That word is “zimah”.

    As we read Leviticus, we recognize that these writings are certainly not meant for all people. These were writings meant to separate the Israelites from the pagans of the lands they had been delievered from. I do not believe any of the laws mentioned in Leviticus can be used as a moral guideline for modern day Christians.

    I would also like to reply to your interpretation of the word “arsenokoites”. The root of the word (arseno) means male. How can this word be a condemnation of homosexuals if it is referenced in male activity? In the times of the Bible, men were typically the only ones involved in the business of sex. In other words, they bought and sold sex slaves. They ran the brothels. They were pimps. They offered people for sexual favors, etc. The word arsenokoitai almost certainly does not mean homosexual, but instead sexual deviance.

    Romans 1:26-27 can be interpreted as you say. However, what if the exchange is from their natural sexuality? It is obvious from the Scripture that these people had previously engaged in heterosexual activity. In this context, they then became pagans. They took up pagan rituals and pratices. Part of the pagan rituals and practices were sexual orgies. If these people had once been participating in monogamous heterosexual relationships, and then, as part of their paganism, gave themselves over to polygamous homosexual relationships, would they not be exchanging their natural sexual desires for something unnatural TO THEM? This chapter of Romans is most certainly referencing those that broke away from what they they as truth and became part of the paganistic activites. Paul is saying they abandoned what they had known as right. They abandoned their natural sexual desires and gave themselves over to their OWN unnatural sexual desires.

    I look forward to your reply, and thanks for staying on topic. It is hard to find someone who can discuss this without getting personal. I knew you could.

  2. The Leviticus passage MUST be understood within the context of the book. I agree and affirm that the laws contained in this book are laws specific to the Jewish nation. Verses 18:3 and 24 make it clear that these practices are forbidden and that they were carried out in the land of Egypt and Canaan. So the term “toevah” does carry a cultural component expecting the Israelites to live a different lifestyle.

    One should be careful to argue away the moral element of this passage, however. To argue that verse 22 is cultural and not connected to a moral standard applicable today, puts one on a slippery slope. Are the other sexual prohibitions listed in the chapter to be understood as cultural and not moral? What about verse 20 that defines adultery, or verse 23 that defined bestiality or verse 11 that defines incest? Are these cultural laws applicable only to the Jewish nation and not relevant for us today?

    I’m not quite sure I understand what you are saying regarding Romans 1. Are you suggesting that men/women are born homosexual and, therefore, are engaging in “natural sexual desires” to them? If so, that is an interesting proposition, and one that, in my biblical point of view, would be difficult to defend Biblically.

  3. “Are the other sexual prohibitions listed in the chapter to be understood as cultural and not moral?”

    In these verses? Yes. However, the other sexual prohibitions are specifically and explicitly listed in other passages. For example:

    – Adultery is specifically listed in the Ten Commandments, Matthew 5:28, I Corinthians 6:18 addresses fornication which is the foundation of adultery. I think you and I can find mutliple other explicit mentions of adultery.

    Now for bestiality and incest, we need to go back to my argument about what is sin. I argue that sin is something that harms us physically, spiritually, or otherwise. Is bestiality not physically dangerous? How many diseases do we have today because of bestiality? Bestiality is dangerous to the body. There is no scientific argument against this.

    In the same way, is incest not genetically dangerous? God knew and knows this. Many dangerous mutations occur because of the genetic anomalies triggered by incest. We
    know that it is dangerous.

    -“Are you suggesting that men/women are born homosexual and, therefore, are engaging in “natural sexual desires” to them?”

    Well, I’m not going to make that jump yet. I am saying that the people mentioned in Romans 1 had been in heterosexual relationships. They were heterosexuals. As they became engaged in the actions and rituals of the pagans, they gave themselves over to sexuality that was not natural to them or foreign to their natural inclinations sexually as evidenced by the fact that they had previously been involved in monogamous heterosexual relationships.

  4. If we operate under the idea that sin is “something that harms us physically, spiritually, or otherwise,” then wouldn’t homosexuality fit that criteria? With few exceptions, HIV/AIDS is transmitted via sexual behavior. It is found in the homosexual community in greater numbers than any other. I think we would agree that this is harmful physically and otherwise. Which would fit in the definition of sin as you define.

    This is as logically valid as your proposition against bestiality and incest. If it causes us harm, it is sin.

    Regarding Romans 1, What do you base this argument on within the text? What suggest that these acts are pagan rituals? The text uses very specific wording to describe homosexual behavior and in the context of the passage it is referring to the progression and development of sin.

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