Homosexuality in the Christian Scriptures
Romans 1:26-27 and perhaps Romans 2
The text reads (in the King James Version):
Romans 1:26-27: "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 recompence
[sic] of their error
which was meet."
This passage is unique in that it is the only place in the Bible that refers
to same-gender sexual behavior by women. Bennett Sims, the former Episcopal bishop of Atlanta, believes that these
verses have done more to form Christians' negative opinion of homosexuality than
any other single passage in the Bible. He writes:
"For most of us who
seriously honor Scripture these verses still stand as the capital New Testament
text that unequivocally prohibits homosexual behavior. More prohibitively, this
text has been taken to mean that even a same-sex inclination is reprehensible,
so that a type of humanity known as 'homosexual' has steadily become the object
of contempt and discrimination." 1
Other Christians interpret the passage differently. They note that the persons involved in the orgy were former Christians, and were heterosexual. Romans 1 condemns them because they went against their nature -- their heterosexual orientation -- and engaged in same-gender sexual behavior. By the same reasoning, lesbians and gays who went against their fundamental nature -- their homosexual orientation -- and engaged in opposite-gender sexual behavior would also be sinning.
Another interpretation is discussed by Douglas Campbell in his book "The Deliverance of God." Campbell suggests that in Romans 1:18-32, Paul was presenting an argument by others that actually oppose his own beliefs. He does this in order to refute the other writers' false teaching. For millennia, Christian theologians have generally interpreted this passage as representing Paul's beliefs. If Campbell's interpretation is correct, then the church has reversed the meaning of the passage and condemned behaviors that Paul would not have condemned.
Still another interpretation is asserted by author Jack Levison. He suggests that the start of chapter 2 of Romans is the key message and should be used to interpret Romans 1. Chapter 2 condemns judgmental behavior that causes internal conflict within the Church. Those who judge others are themselves condemned.
Topics included in this section:
- "How to be true to the Bible and say 'Yes' to same-sex unions,"
Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-FEB-25
Author: B.A. Robinson