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regarding the topic of homosexuality and the word of God is that the biblical injunctions against this lifestyle are outdated, as is its acceptance of slavery.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.
Homosexuality In The New Testament: Romans : 26
The first is Romans 1:26-27: Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
At first reading, Paul seems clearly to consider homosexual activity to be unbiblical. But there is another way to interpret the passage, suggested by those who support homosexuality as a biblical lifestyle.
In their reading, Paul is addressing the issue of heterosexual men and women who choose homosexual activity, which is unnatural for them. If this is true, Pauls statement bears no relevance to those who consider themselves homosexual by innate or natural orientation.
Is such an interpretation the most objective way to read the text?
No, for two reasons.
First, Paul describes homosexual acts themselves as shameful lusts , indecent acts, and perversion . To suggest that his descriptions relate only to the decision to engage in such activity by heterosexuals is to strain the Greek syntax beyond its meaning.
One can conclude that Paul was wrong, that homosexual orientation can be natural and its sexual expression therefore natural relations. But one cannot argue on the basis of this text that homosexuality is biblical, for Pauls scriptural words clearly state the opposite.
The Term Malakoi Literally Means Soft And It Was Widely Used To Describe A Lack Of Self
Learn more about the translation of these two Greek words in chapter seven of “God and the Gay Christian.”
- Given that those negative characteristics were unfortunately attributed to women in the ancient world, the term was also long translated as effeminate.
- Although most uses of the term in ancient literature were not related to sexual behavior, men who took the passive role in same-sex relations were sometimes called malakoi, which is why many non-affirming Christians argue that it represents a condemnation of same-sex relationships.
- But even in sexual contexts, malakos was most frequently used to describe men who were seen as lacking self-control in their love for women.
- Its only in the past century that many Bible translators have connected the word specifically to same-sex relationships. More common English translations in past centuries were terms such as weaklings, wantons, and debauchers.
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Q12 How Can We Help Christians Who Get Involved In The Practice Of Homosexuality Or Who Become Christians And Have Had These Kinds Of Experiences Or Have Same Sex Attraction
Remaining mentally and morally pure to ones spouse is a lifelong intentional battle for heterosexual people. Sexual issues are deep ones because they go to the core of our beings as humans. Why should we expect it would be any different for those encountering same-sex attraction issues? Some may have a more immediate, complete victory over this. Most will probably be like you and me. They will have victory over temptations one day at a time through Gods grace. This will come for us all as we grow in understanding our identity in Christ. This is not simply a sin-management attempt, but a walk in knowing and becoming like Christ.
First A Translation Does Not Determine Meaning But Is A Reflection Of The Translator Understanding Of A Text Conveyed Through The Capacity Of A Target Language
This is a very important point at every level. Every translation is ultimately an interpretation by the translator, but it is also limited by the target language. Anybody who knows more than one language understands this. Each language has its own idiosyncrasies, common vocabulary, and idioms which must be accounted for. Most languages do not represent ideas in the same ways.
With regard to Bible translation specifically, there are plenty of examples where Bible translations convey a meaning which is not exactly in line with the original meaning of the Greek or Hebrew. For example, the use of James instead of Jacob in the NT, or even the KJVs use of Appearance in 1 Thessalonians 5:22. In other words, translation is not a simple issue, and there will often be differences in how translations are done.
I would argue the idea of using a particular word in a translation is less important than the question of meaning. Ultimately, the most important question to ask is, what does the text mean. In other words, what did the author mean when he wrote the original words in Greek or Hebrew. Our translations are supposed to be a window through which we can discern that answer, but translations can be imperfect . Regardless, the most important question relates to meaning of the original text. The issue of word choice in a target language is secondary because words change and develop in the target language over time.
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What The Bible Says About Sexual Relations
Its important to talk about sexual relations, because this is really what is most important to the Most High. Because the act of having sex holds great significance to our relationships.
The Paul tells us to flee fornication because it is a sin that we commit against our bodies. As you may or not know our bodies are the temple of God.
1 Corinthians 6:18
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
In the preceding verse the importance of the our bodies is explained also:
1 Corinthians 6:15-16
15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
The Most high gives us clear instructions in this area, about who our sexual preference should be. And we are told to have relations with the opposite sex.
Scriptures confirming this and tell us that a man should not lie with a woman a man as he lies with a woman.
22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
When sexual relations take place, this is when the bible says the act of homosexuality takes place. The bible refers to it as an abomination.
Any perverse thoughts and mannerism can be dealt with by fasting an praying. Read my post here.
How Should We Respond
First, if the Body of Christ is to effectively address moral issues in the culture, it seems she must first address whatever moral problems she has within her own ranks. We cannot, with any integrity, speak to the culture about sexual immorality if we are just as guilty of some form of sexual immorality ourselves.
It is important that we repent of our hostility toward homosexual people and recommit to bold love.
The church must repent of being intimidated by the gay rights movement and recommit to her prophetic role.
Within the gay rights movement, there is a militant and influential faction that has an agenda. What is frightening about their agenda is that it is committed not only to the normalization of homosexuality, but to the silencing of anyone who opposes that normalization.
The primary institution that still opposes the normalization of homosexuality is the church.
As the culture has consistently shifted to a pro-gay position, it has then turned to us, the church and said, Shift with us! And, by and large, we are saying, We cant. Hence, the tension.
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Is The Bibles View Cruel
What about people who have homosexual inclinations? Were they born that way? If so, would it not be cruel to say that it is wrong for them to act on their desires?
The Bible does not comment on the biology of homosexuality, although it acknowledges that some human traits are deeply ingrained. Still, the Bible says that certain conductincluding homosexual acts
Does The Bible Promote Prejudice
Still, some people would say that the Bible promotes prejudice against homosexuals and that those who adhere to its moral code are intolerant. The Bible was written at a time when people were narrow-minded, they claim. Today we accept people of all races, nationalities, and sexual preferences. To them, rejecting homosexuality is the same as rejecting people of a different skin color. Is that comparison valid? No. Why not?
Because there is a difference between rejecting homosexual conduct and rejecting homosexual people. The Bible tells Christians to be respectful of all kinds of people. But that does not mean that Christians must accept all kinds of conduct.
Consider a comparison: Suppose you view smoking as harmful and even repugnant. What if you have a workmate who is a smoker? Would you be considered narrow-minded just because your view of smoking differs from his? Would the fact that he smokes and you do not smoke automatically mean that you are prejudiced against him? If your workmate were to demand that you change your view of smoking, would that not make him narrow-minded and intolerant?
Jehovahs Witnesses choose to live by the moral code set forth in the Bible. They do not approve of the actions that the Bible prohibits. But they neither mock nor mistreat people whose practices differ from their own.
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Background To The Verses
So whats going on in the two verses that were looking at? First of all, these verses are addressed only to males there is no mention here of two women. Secondly, how are the Israelite people going to be distinct from, different from their neighbours by putting these into practice?
Well, in the surrounding cultures, the major socially acceptable form of same-sex activity was with male shrine prostitutes as part of temple worship to pagan gods and goddesses. And there is repeated rhetoric against these shrine prostitutes at different parts of the Hebrew Bible .
Looking wider afield, there were cultures like Ancient Greece, where the dominant form of male-male intercourse was men with boys pederasty. And did you notice that the verses said a man lying with a male, not a man lying with a man?
Now, occasionally Ive seen some commentators claim that this is trying to link it back to Genesis , but if so it is rather strange that female isnt used its as with a woman and not female.
I think it more likely that male is used here precisely because it can include lying with boys as well as men.
So two main contexts for the Israelite people to be different from male-male intercourse linked with pagan temple goddess worship, and pederasty.
Note how different these are from what we are looking at today with faithful, loving, committed relationships.
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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Iv Jesus On Sexuality
When discussions of Jesus and homosexuality or the LGBT15 lifestyle come up some might try to claim that Jesus never dealt with the issue. However that is not really accurate. Jesus, as God, was a unique teacher. He often dealt authoritatively with the principles that were behind not just one action, but a whole host of possible ones. He often discerned through to the heart and intent of people and exposed both our sinful hearts, and His holy standard. The following two examples carefully show us that we all fall short and are desperately in need of Gods grace.
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The Second Witness Of Sodoms Sin
In Judges 19, ala Sodom, the attempted homosexual rape of a Levite by the Benjamites of Gibeah leads to civil war among the Hebrew tribes .
Frequently, God give special emphasis to His teachings by sending two witnesses. A we noted above, this occurred when God sent two angels to bear witness to Sodoms homosexual sin before the outpouring of His wrath. But there are also two separate incidents in the Bible which bear witness to the special relationship of homosexuality with apostasy and judgment. The first is, of course, Genesis 19. The second witness is Judges 19.
Readers of both passages will be struck by the clear parallels in the two stories, the primary common elements being the mobs of predatory homosexual men insistent on raping the male guest, the offering of a female substitute as the lesser evil, and the severe consequence to society from the behavior of the homosexuals. The differences in the stories highlight the importance of the common elements but also add meaning to the lesson. For example, the fact that the object of the homosexuals lust in Judges 19 is a Levite is significant as the Levites were the tribe of priests who served as Old Testament intermediaries between God and man, and thus the offense was against both God and man simultaneously a violation of the first and the second great commandment.
Jewish And Christian Criticisms Of Same
This cultural approach is alien to us, so hard to accept. But Jewish criticisms of male same-sex activity in Roman times assumed that one of the participants would be a boy pederasty. Heres an example from Philo, who lived about the same time as Paul, and like Paul was Jewish.
And let the man who is devoted to the love of boys submit to the same punishment, since he pursues that pleasure which is contrary to nature
Philo, Special Laws 3.39
The earliest Christians also attacked pederasty as something routinely accepted by society but rejected by the Church. The earliest interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 that we have assumes that Paul is talking about pederasty:
For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure, who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations These adulterers and pederasts defame the eunuchs and the once-married
Athenagoras, Apology 34.
And this assumption carries on through the first few centuries of the church. Writer after writer condemns pederasty, calling it child corruption 6).
This, then, is the background to the world of the New Testament. It was a world where a freeborn man was expected to demonstrate his masculinity and dominance through intercourse with his wife, his slaves and prostitutes, whether the slaves or prostitutes were male or female.
Does The Sin Of Sodom Condemn Homosexuality
The Supreme Court made history on June 27, 2003, when it struck down the sodomy laws of the state of Texas. In a 6-3 decision, the justices reversed course from a ruling seventeen years ago that states could punish homosexuals for private consensual sex. Such activity is typically called sodomy because of the text well study today.
In a survey of passages typically cited on the divisive issue of homosexuality, Genesis 19 and the sin of Sodom is usually listed first. Lot entertained two angels who came to the city to investigate its sins. These angels appeared as men. Before they went to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodomboth young and oldsurrounded the house. They called to Lot, Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them . For such sin, the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah , destroying them.
Is this text a condemnation of homosexuality?
Dr. Walter Wink believes not: That was a case of ostensibly heterosexual males intent on humiliating strangers by treating them like women, thus demasculinizing them . However, Dr. Wink offers no textual evidence that the men were ostensibly heterosexual. His view is only conjectural and stands against the vast majority of interpretation across the centuries.
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