What Was The New Testament Attitude Toward Slavery
And how does this stance affect our study of the issue of homosexuality?
Slavery in the Roman era was dramatically different from the despicable practice as we know it in American history. If you had been walking through any first-century Roman city, you would not have been able to distinguish between slaves and free. Patterns of work, relationships, or faith were no different between the two. Slaves served not only to do manual labor but also as doctors, nurses, household managers, and intellectuals. They administered funds and cities. They were typically given an excellent education at the expense of their owners so that philosophers and tutors were typically slaves.
Even more amazing to us, it was common for people to sell themselves into slavery to secure such privileges. A person who desired citizenship in the Empire could achieve it by enslaving himself to a citizen, then purchasing his freedom. Slavery was more a process than a condition.
While there is no doubt that many slaves were abused physically, sexually, and socially, it is also true that at least as many were part of the more privileged strata of society. And the total dependence of the Roman economy upon the labor of slaves made it impossible for the Empire to conceive of abolishing this institution. If an economist were to propose that we refuse all goods and services imported from outside America, wed be equally surprised.
Does the New Testament then argue for slavery? Absolutely not.
Genesis 19 And Leviticus
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is well known. This is where the terms sodomite and sodomy originate, and it has long been associated with biblical condemnation of male homosexual sex. It is, however, actually about gang-rape.
In this story, the men of Sodom seek to rape two visitors . Their host, Lot, defends them and offers them protection in his house, but offers his virgin daughters to be raped in their place.
It is a deeply problematic and complex story that warrants an article of its own, but what is clear is that sexual violence and rape is harshly condemned, and so God destroys the town with sulphur and fire.
Despite the linguistic history of the word sodomite, Genesis 19 has nothing to say about homosexuality or mutually consenting adults of the same gender expressing their desire and love.
Two of the laws of Leviticus seem more pertinent. They call a man lying with another man instead of his wife an abomination.
We should note first that the imagined scenario is a married man committing adultery with another male. It is not describing what we would understand to be a sexual orientation.
We might also note the inherent sexism here: women apparently dont have the same desire or their sexuality is deemed too insignificant to be worthy of comment.
Banned likewise is wearing mixed-fabric clothing, interbreeding animals of different species, tattoos, mocking the blind by putting obstacles in their way, and trimming your beard.
God Will Not Let You Be Tempted Beyond What You Are Able
All people meet trials and difficulties in life, both in their physical circumstances and in their spiritual life. Not living according to ones innate homosexual orientation can require a huge sacrifice. But God blesses those who live wholly for Him. Nobody who has truly given up everything to serve God will regret it. He only wants the best for us.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Even though Gods Word may appear radical, God also loves each sinner, no matter who they are, what their background is, or what they have done. He loves each one of us more than we can comprehend. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins, and has shown us the way of escape.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30.
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What About Transgender And Transsexual People
The Bible does not say anything specific about either situation. However, the book of Deuteronomy has a prohibition against dressing in clothing of the opposite sex:
A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.
No one knows for sure whether this prohibition was intended as a general principle or was directed at some specific abuse among the ancient Hebrews. Cross-dressing was likely considered an affront to the natural distinction between the sexes ” rel=”nofollow”> Genesis 1:27). It may also have been related to some deviant sexual practice, or more likely, to pagan worship. It is known that some pagan rituals of that time involved women wearing armor and men dressing as women, and the Hebrews were forbidden to do anything that had even the appearance of pagan worship.
What About Leviticus 1: 22
The next text typically cited on our subject is Leviticus 18:22, and it is far less ambiguous: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman that is detestable. The Hebrew is as clear as the English translation.
The obvious sense of the command seems to be: homosexual sexual relations are forbidden by Scripture. This is the way the text has typically been understood by Jewish and Christian interpreters across the centuries. It is the way most read the text still today.
But those who advocate homosexuality as an acceptable biblical lifestyle have found ways to dissent. Dr. Walter Wink admits that this text unequivocally condemn same-sex sexual behavior. But he theorizes that the ancient Hebrews saw any sexual activity which could not lead to the creation of life as a form of abortion or murder. He adds that the Jews would have seen homosexuality as alien behavior, representing yet one more incursion of pagan civilization into Jewish life.
And thats not all. Other critics see the Levitical laws as expressive of worship codes, not universal moral standards. And they argue that all such laws were intended only for their day and time, such as kosher dietary laws and harvest regulations.
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What Does The Bible Teach About Same
The Bible defines marriage in Genesis 2:24 as a union between one man and one woman. Jesus Christ upholds this definition of marriage in Matthew 19:5, as does the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:31. Any and all sexual activity which takes place outside of this context is treated as sinful, what Jesus calls sexual immorality in Mark 7:21.
Further to this, same-sex practice is specifically highlighted as sinful a number of times in Scripture. In Gods Law, for example, condemnations of same-sex practice are given in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Further references are made in the New Testament. For example, in Romans 1:24-32, amid echoes to the Genesis creation account, both male and female same-sex practice are treated as sinful. Further references to the sinfulness of same-sex practice can be seen in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.
The Scriptures are, therefore, consistent in their prohibition of same-sex sexual activity, across different periods of salvation history and within different cultural settings. Although the Scriptures are clear on sexual ethics, they also tell us that the prospect of forgiveness and eternal life is held out for anyone who turns from sin and puts their faith in Christ , no matter how they may have fallen short of his good design for sex and marriage.
The Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality Seriously It Doesnt
The word homosexuality didnt even show up in English translations of the Bible until 1946, so why do we say the Bible condemns it?
Billy Grahams son is terrified that President Obama and a whole host of us have chucked out our Bibles in order to support marriage equality. This week he was at it again , railing against the assault on
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Third Pauls Use Of The Word Translated Homosexuals In 1 Cor : 9 Is Reliant On The Levitical Prohibitions Against Homosexuality
It is obvious from a study of the surrounding text that Paul had the Levitical prohibitions against same sex relationships in mind when he wrote the book of 1 Corinthians. This is demonstrated in two waysbig picture and small picture.
Related to the big picture, anyone who studies the book of 1 Corinthians notes Pauls reliance on Leviticus to formulate his ethics on many of the issues. Note the following examples.
|Lev 20:5||1 Cor 6:1220|
Clearly Leviticus was on the mind of the Apostle as he worked through the issues that the church of Corinth faced. But there is also evidence in the small details.
In 1 Corinthians 5:1, Paul uses terminology in describing the incest problem at Corinth in a way that matches with the Greek Old Testament text from Leviticus 18.
|Lev 18:7a||1 Cor 5:1c|
|, . You shall note uncover the nakedness of your father and the nakedness of your mother, for she is your mother .||, . You shall not uncover the nakedness of the wife of your father it is the nakedness of your father .||. That someone is having the wife of his father .|
The wording that Paul uses indicates that what was in mind in 1 Corinthians 5 is incest between a son and his mother-in-law, not the biological mother.
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Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, returns to her post soon, after spending five nights in jail and then a few more days recovering at home. A Pentecostal Christian, Davis says Gods authority instructs her not to issue licenses for gay marriage, even though the law compels her to. Presidential contenders, including Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, both fundamentalists, have praised her stance.
Its undeniable that the earliest scripture books, the ones Christians call the Pentateuch and Jews call the Torah, dont like same-sex relations. At the Garden of Eden, God decrees that a man will be the husband and a woman the wife. In Leviticus 18:22, the text states, You shall not lie with a male as with a woman it is an abomination. In 20:13, Leviticus specifies that both parties in male-male sex shall be put to death.
That seems open-and-shut, though one might wonder why Davis, Cruz, Huckabee and the like seek only to deny gays marriage, rather than execute them as God decreed.
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Slavery And The Scriptures
My move to Atlanta in 1994 gave me my first exposure to the remarkable colonial history of the East Coast. When people living in South Carolina speak of the War, they could mean the Civil War or the Revolutionary War.
It is a fascinating region.
With one exception.
While traveling in Charleston one day, my wife, Janet, and I came upon the slave trading warehouse, the place where slaves were brought to America on ships and sold at market. I can still remember the building and my revulsion upon seeing it.
I believe that racism is the greatest sin in America, the failure that keeps us from addressing our other failures. Racism makes crime in south Dallas a black problem and drug abuse in north Dallas a white problemwhen theyre allour problems.
Given our tragic history with racism, treating the subject of slavery in the Bible is a bit repugnant for us. However, a very common assertion regarding the topic of homosexuality and the word of God is that the biblical injunctions against this lifestyle are outdated, as is its acceptance of slavery. If we can prove that the Bible was wrong on the latter, we can believe that it is wrong on the former.
The issue of slavery in the Bible is a large and comprehensive subject, far more wide-ranging than we will consider in this article. Ill try to limit our study to the barest of essentials so we can relate it to the larger question that brings it to our attention.
You Have Been Part Of A Research Team That Is Seeking To Understand How The Decision Was Made To Put The Word Homosexual In The Bible Is That True
Ed: Yes. It first showed up in the RSV translation. So before figuring out why they decided to use that word in the RSV translation I wanted to see how other cultures and translations treated the same verses when they were translated during the Reformation 500 years ago. So I started collecting old Bibles in French, German, Irish, Gaelic, Czechoslovakian, Polish you name it. Now Ive got most European major languages that Ive collected over time. Anyway, I had a German friend come back to town and I asked if he could help me with some passages in one of my German Bibles from the 1800s. So we went to Leviticus 18:22 and hes translating it for me word for word. In the English where it says Man shall not lie with man, for it is an abomination, the German version says Man shall not lie with young boys as he does with a woman, for it is an abomination. I said, What?! Are you sure? He said, Yes! Then we went to Leviticus 20:13 same thing, Young boys. So we went to 1 Corinthians to see how they translated arsenokoitai and instead of homosexuals it said, Boy molesters will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So then I started thinking that of 4 of the 6 clobber passages, all these nations and translations were referring to pederasty, and not what we would call homosexuality today.
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Homosexuality Was Added To The Bible In 1946
It is becoming more and more popular to argue that the Bible speaking against homosexuality is a recent innovation that was added to the Bible to make Scripture anti-gay. One very common iteration of the argument is that the word homosexual was not in any Bible prior to 1946. The implication of such argumentation is that the Bible does not speak against homosexuality, and that the church should therefore accept a gay lifestyle as being compatible with biblical teaching.
Those who put forward such argumentation typically point to Luthers German translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9, which uses the word Knabenschänder, or boy molester rather than the typical idea of homosexual found in modern translations. Additionally, proponents point to the KJV translation, done in 1611, which translated 1 Corinthians 6:9 as, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind. It was not until 1946 with the translation of the RSV that the term homosexual came to be utilized in Bible translations.
How should Christians respond to such argumentation? Is it true that the Bible is accepting of homosexual behavior, and that it was only recently when the Bible was twisted to be anti-gay?
There are multiple arguments which are important to work through in order to think accurately about this issue.
C Theological Journal Resources
Gary R. GromackiWhy Be Concerned about Same-Sex Marriage? Journal of Ministry and Theology, 09:2
Guenther HaasHermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice, Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 1, No. 2 ,
David E. MalickThe Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Bibliotheca Sacra, 150:600
The Churchs Response To The Homosexual, Journal of Ministry and Theology, 14:2
P. Michael UklejaHomosexuality and the Old Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:559 The Bible and Homosexuality Part 2: Homosexuality in the New Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:560
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Those Who Consider Themselves To Be Homosexual By Sexual Orientation Should Practice Sexual Celibacy
Many will counter that I have no idea how difficult such a lifestyle decision would be. Theyre right.
But given that I understand the Bible to teach clearly that homosexuality is an unbiblical lifestyle, the only conclusion I can draw is that the practice of this lifestyle will lead the person out of the will of God and into harmful behavior.
Abstinence is, by this logic, the option that is in that persons best personal interest. I can only hope that my heart is clear in offering this suggestion. My desire is not to condemn but to offer biblical truth as I understand it.
This article is offered with the prayer that the Lord of Scripture will use his word to bring healing, hope, and help to hearts and homes troubled by the issue of homosexuality. To the degree that these thoughts have shed more light than heat, my prayer will be answered.