Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 4: Scripture

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Review
    • Leviticus 18:22, 20:13
      • The scripture is a part of the Holiness Code in the book of Leviticus. The purpose of the code was to help the people “be holy as God is holy”.
      • The problem with the male sex acts described is likely that they are not how God intended for the creation to be
      • Christians do not keep many of the laws of Leviticus
        • Because they might not pertain to our context
        • They represent a pre modern way of seeing the world, that is how God intended creation
      • The role of the Church, since the beginning of the Church, was to decide which laws, of Leviticus or anywhere else in scripture, applied to their circumstance. Matthew 18:18, Binding and Loosing
        • Most Lutheran scholars would loose this law
          • that only means that this law does not speak to our current circumstance, not a statement on whether same gender sex is sinful
  3. Romans 1:26-27
    • What are the clear meaning of these verses?
    • How do these verses fit into the first chapter of Paul?
    • What seems to be Paul’s view of Gentiles?
    • Pederasty.
      • Does it seem important to you that pederasty is the only reference for homosexuality Paul might have had?
    • What scholars say about whether these verses speak to our understanding of homosexuality
  4. I Corinthians 6:9-11
    • What are the clear meaning of these verse?
    • How do these verses fit into the sixth chapter of I Corinthians?
    • The debate over terms pornos, malakos, arsenokoites
  5. I Timothy 1:8-10
    • What is the clear meaning of this scripture?
    • The debate over translating the three words together
  6. Closing thoughts on scripture


  • Points that can be made


  1. As far as we can tell, the biblical writers knew nothing about homosexuality as a sexual orientation. It can be said that the bible teaches nothing concerning homosexuality.
  2. The bible does have things to say about sexual relationships between men and women and between persons of the same gender. The fault line is how broad and analogous to our context to read the prohibitions of Leviticus and comments of Paul. Some would say, the same gender sexual acts described are simply against the nature of God intention of creation. Thus, narrow or broad it does not matter. Others would say that Israel’s context in Lev. is far from our own and Paul is referring to a particular act that he and others found repugnant in their day, and we likely would, too.
  3. The differences are not between those who wish to be true to scripture and those who seek to twist the bible to their own liking. Luther himself translated the word arsenkoitai (pederasty) as pedophile
  1. Next week
    • Our cultural experiences with LGBTQ community
    • Being church when we don’t agree
  2. Closing Prayer

Romans 1:19-25, 26-27, 28-32

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.

I Corinthians 6:9-11

When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?3Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? 4If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, 6but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that?

7 In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

12 ‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything. 13‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’, and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ 17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

I Timothy 1:8-10

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers,10fornicators, sodomites, slave-traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Notes from scripture

Romans 1:26-27

  • The letter to Romans is Paul’s great theology of God revealed in Jesus. The first part of that work are chapters 1-3:19. Paul makes clear in the first chapter that both Jew and Gentile are guilty of unrighteous behavior that angers God, whether they know God or not. This first chapter, deals with Gentiles who don’t know God but who still have a sense of what is right and wrong. When he has completed this argument, he will declare in 3:20 that God has declared peace even though all of us are wicked. God wants relationship with humanity and not to be separated from us by sin.
  • The Gentile’s wickedness is based in their refusal to acknowledge God as creator and Lord. Though as Gentiles they may not know the name for God, the created world makes clear God exists.
    1. Paul gives many examples of their wickedness. These two verse on homosexuality are just one example.
  • Paul’s problem with the Gentile world are not new. Similar things were written by other Hellenist Jews. The popular criticism of Paul’s day is that they were idolaters and sexual deviants. Nearly all known Hellenistic Jewish texts of this time speak of and condemn same gender sexual activities. This was obviously something that bothered Jews in Paul’s day. The question is what exactly were they witnessing that was so alarming and so obviously wicked?
    1. Some writings that expand on this topic describe is called pederasty. A practice of some wealthy men of the day, where an older man would take a young boy as a sexual partner in a passive, female role. Most interpreters agree that this practice is what is most often referred to in New Testament scripture when the topic of homosexuality is brought up. It was universally reviled by Jews.
      • Historical evidence of same gender sexual activities between persons of the same class are non existent. Paul’s condemnation imagined nothing like a committed homosexual relationship found today.
    2. The counter is that this would have made no difference to Paul or his argument. Paul saw this misuse of sexuality as central to his argument that Gentiles were denying the obvious creator by acting in unnatural ways. It is his first piece of “evidence” because Paul thinks this practice is his strongest proof. There is no indication Paul would have thought otherwise if confronted with a modern, mutual and committed experience of homosexuality.  
  • There are arguments over Paul’s use of nature, natural and beyond natural. This is important because much of our later ideas about sexuality in general come from Paul’s writings on what is natural. These are the two sides to this argument.
    1. natural in that it is the natural order of things, i.e. how God made things, how God created things. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”
    2. natural in that this is the natural way to do things, like the word normal. What is normal is what I am exposed to and how I understand the world from my own limited experience.
      • For example, when I was young it was normal for white people to date and marry white people and not normal for white people to date and marry black people. My parents thought there was great harm in this second happening, “because their kids wouldn’t know what community they belonged to”. It was simply “natural” for people of the same race to want to create families together. Neither me nor my parents saw this as racist at the time. Now, they have biracial grandchildren and their views have changed because their experience has changed.  
      • Paul only used the word this way in his other writings. The implication is that Paul’s comment might be more about the culture than the physical world and God’s intent
  • Argument over translating “contrary to nature”. Some make the case it should be beyond natural or in excess of what is natural. This goes along with the context better because the problem in Paul’s argument was that the lusts of the Gentiles could not be satisfied. Plus, a whole host of contemporary Jewish writers also complained about the insatiable lusts of the Gentiles. In this argument, Paul’s problem with homosexuality is that men want sex so much that when they tire or run out of women they turn to other men, and vica versa. It is almost comic to Paul, beyond normal/natural.
  • There is interest in Paul’s use of women in this text, which is pretty unusual in other writings. One reason suggested by scholars is that Paul is building his case with hyperbole, these people are so bad, even their women are sleeping with women. Again, the complaint is not necessarily about homosexual women but oversexual women. The belief is that it is unlikely from contemporary writings Paul would have ever encountered female homosexuality.
    1. Some scholars counter that because Paul used women in his example, same gender homosexual relationships are what he is describing in a comprehensive way and not pederasty which was not a practice of women.
  • Nearly all scholars agree that Paul is not addressing a problem in the Roman church, but in the larger world outside their congregation. Paul is describing the wrath of God against all humanity. The question before the church is whether the activities he envisions as typical and characteristic of the Gentiles are symmetrical with those forms of same gender sexual activities ath are currently under discussion.

I Corinthians 6:9-11


  • The entire letter is addressing problems that his supporters have reported to him concerning the behavior of this young church Paul founded in this cosmopolitan city. Paul’s letter deals with how they are to be church together.
  • The context of chapter 6 is Paul’s argument that Christians should not take other Christians to court, as he has heard some in the Corinth are doing. It sets a bad example for  non Christians and does not show love for their Christian neighbor who they are suing. The paradox to Paul is that if a Christian was wronged by another Christian, why would they then do the wrong thing and take them to court? And what is it to you that someone does you wrong Paul continues? Wrongdoers, unrighteous people, won’t inherit the Kingdom of God anyway, but you will because Jesus has saved you. If you are saved already, made right, why do you need to prove you are right in court?
    • This list of what wrongdoers do is not central to Paul’s point in Chapter 6, but examples identifying the obvious unrighteous people around them in Corinth
  • the chapter ends with an argument from Paul about sexual immorality, reminding Christians that if they have been united in the Spirit with Christ, then we are taking Christ with us in real ways when we are acting sexually immoral

Pertinent terms


  • pornos– means one who practices sexual immorality, usually translated fornicator, often used to refer to a male prostitute it can describe a host of sexually immoral activities. Paul uses forms of the word throughout this sixth chapter to describe various immoral acts and does not seem here to be talking about homosexuality.
  • malakos-ordinary Greek word for soft, it was used in Greek often in a moral sense for those who lack self control. The King James version translated it as effeminate.
  • arsenokoitai-unknown Greek word before Paul’s use. The roots of both, male and bed, appear in the Greek version of the OT in the Leviticus 18:22. So possibly, Paul coined a term or his teachers did that referred to the sexual activity of this passage using these two words.


      • translators have put these two words together and come up with homosexuals, RSV-1946, sexual perverts RSV-1971,  persons guilty of homosexual perversion-NEW, homosexual perverts TEV, sexual perverts REB, KJV effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, NRSV, male prostitutes, sodomites

The debate

      • Some interpreters take these two terms to mean that Paul is referring to both partners in the homosexual relationship, the one that acts like a man and the other who acts like a woman.
      • Still others suggest that they were common words describing the boys in the relationship with older men and male prostitutes or male prostitutes and their johns.


  • What can be said with confidence is that whatever Paul is saying seems pretty specific to his place and time and may be lost to us


      • Some interpreters emphasize the larger point of First Corinthians, that Corinth is not acting like God’s vision of the church. Chapter 6 gives two examples, lawsuits among Christians, sexual immorality. The point of this second example is not to condemn homosexuality, an unknown term to Paul, but to condemn the improper use of sex, that is sex outside of marriage, 6:16 two shall become one, all in the name of being good Christians, 6:12, all things are lawful to me. This is not what God intended for the church


  • The more general we read these texts, the more we see them having to do with our situation. The more specific we read them, the less they have to do with us.


I Timothy 1:9-10

  • We have encountered two of the words in I Corinthians, pornos and arsenokoites, translated here fornicators and sodomites
  • Strong argument to translate pornos, arsenokoites and the third word andrapodistes, translated as kidnapper, together to describe one known sexually immoral act that many Jewish scholars wrote against
    • the arsenokoites (active partner in a male homosexual relationship) hires a  pornos, a male prostitute, and the andrapodistes-the pimp provided the boy prostitute.
      • The word kidnapper is an unusual word for Paul. It is the common word for slave dealer or kidnapper, the same occupation in Paul’s day. In this list of sinful behavior, It seems to indicate the practice of someone who would kidnap a young boy or girl and force them into prostitution. This was a common and known practice of Paul’s day-and our own.
    • Thus, it does not condemn same gender relationships in general but this particular type of prostitution.
  • Some would not read these three words together and instead see all three as separate, sexually immoral people-pornos, kidnappers-andrapodistes with no sexual reference and the arsenokoites-homosexuals.
    • Others counter that Paul would have no reference to the term homosexual. Paul would not have thought of this as an orientation like we do. He likely thought of people as having sexual perversions, because of their misuse of sexuality. Plus, the meaning of arsenokoites  is far from clear-see argument above.


Sources: Background Essay on Biblical Texts for “Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two: The Church and Homosexuality”, Arland J. Hultgren, Walter F. Taylor, 2003.

These are my notes from the ELCA document, Background Essay on Biblical Texts. Many clauses, sentences, even paragraphs are taken directly without citation from that document.

One thought on “Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 4: Scripture”

  1. I have seen through so many other denominations….this discussion of what is so wrong with this lifestyle. It even hurts to know that it even being taught it is an unrepentant sin as well…we need to watch our words for there is an younger generation whom want to find that personal relationship with Jesus too.. I believe Jesus had not stop loving me and i would want even the next generation to feel they too can walk in faith as well….and not allow man’s interpretation of God’s spirit stop their spirit from walking in faith…

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