Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 2: Scripture


  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Review
    • Three legged stool of Christian ethics: Tradition, Scripture, Culture
      • ethics around slavery, banking, remarriage, female leadership have changed over the centuries within the church as the culture has changed, scripture that had been used to support one point of view was either seen as not contextually relevant to a very different world or other scripture seemed more relevant
      • Christian Ethics is always about faithful living, not salvation. We don’t try to live perfect lives in order to get to heaven. We try to live faithful lives as we wait for the Kingdom of God. Why? Because faithful lives bring us closest to the presence of God.
        • Christian Ethics is about trying to create something like the Kingdom of God in the middle of the Kingdom of Man.
    • Sweep of history in the church , understanding our heterosexuality from unnatural to natural
      • Should homosexuality be reconsidered, too?
    • Why didn’t the ELCA just decide this issue for us in 2009?
  3. The Kingdom of God
    • What does this phrase refer to?
    • What do you picture when you hear this phrase? What will the Kingdom of God look like?
    • Read Matthew 5:1-11,
      • How does Jesus describe the Kingdom of God?
    • Why is this a good discussion to have now in this lesson?
  4. Genesis 19:1-11
    • Retell the story
    • What is the point of this story?
    • What is disturbing about this story?
    • What is the role of sexuality in this story?
    • What is the sin of Sodom?
      • OT and NT references
    • Does this story speak to us today about the faithfulness of homosexuality?
    • What scholars say.
    • Another story for home, Judges 19:16-30

  1. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13
    • What is the clear meaning of these verses?
    • What specific words stand out or do you have questions about?
    • What questions do you have about the context?
    • Historical context
    • Literary context
      • In the story
      • Holiness Code, Leviticus 17-26
    • What are your reactions to other verses from the Holiness Code?
      • 19:2
      • 19:18
      • 23:6
      • 19:9-13
      • 19:19
      • 21:16-18
      • 25:35-55
      • 19:26-28
    • Does this story speak to us today about the faithfulness of homosexuality?
    • What scholars say.
  2. Next week, more scripture.
    • Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9-11, I Timothy 1:9-10
  3. Closing Prayer

Matthew 5:1-11 The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Genesis 19:1-11

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2He said, ‘Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No; we will spend the night in the square.’ 3But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; 5and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’ 6Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, 7and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ 9But they replied, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down. 10But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.

Leviticus 18:22

22You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13

13If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Notes from scripture

Genesis 19:1-11

  • In Genesis, two angels come to the house of Lot to stay the night. Men of the city of surround the house and demand that Lot bring the visitors out that they may know them, a common Hebrew expression in scripture for sexual intercourse. Lot begs them not to be wicked and offers them two virgin daughters instead. He protects them saying they have come under my house. The men of the city refuse the offer and try to break down the door. The angels inside grab Lot, bring him in and strike the men blind outside. Then, Sodom and Gomorrah is destroyed by sulfur and fire from the Lord.
  • The sin of Sodom is often said to be homosexuality, but most scholars see the sin of Sodom being inhospitality.
    • The homosexuality of Sodom is gang rape, not a private homosexual act or act of “sodomy”
    • Other OT scripture references Sodom as a problem of a society organized against God, Is. 1:10, 3:9 are talking about injustice, Jer. 23:14 to a variety of irresponsible acts, Exek. 16:49 the sins of pride, excessive, food and indifference to the needy.
    • There are several NT references to Sodom, Matt. 10:15, 11:23-24, Luke 10:12, 17:28-29, Romans 9:29, 2Peter 2:6, Jude 7, Rev. 11:8. All but two of the passages do not name the problem with Sodom. Luke 17 says that it’s fate was divine judgment based on their indifference to God’s claim upon their lives. They were consumed by eating, drinking, commerce, planting and building. Jude 7 says that they indulged in sexual immorality and unnatural lust. The Greek for unnatural lust is literally went after flesh other than their own and is not a reference to same gender sexual activities but to the attack on angels.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

    • These two are part of the Holiness Code, a smaller and older document within Leviticus from chapters 17-26. Lev. 19:2- paraphrase, Be holy because I the Lord God am holy.


  • The holiness code deals with how God set up creation. Everything has a place, an order and humanity is to maintain this. This is why two kinds of materials can’t be worn at the same time, those animals/plants were never meant to be next to each other. Same gender relations were mixing two things never meant to mix. The sin is idolatry because the singer is denying the existence of the creator by not honoring the intention of the creator.


  • The literary context is that God is giving various prohibitions to the Israelites that deal with the dangers of entering into the land of Canaan.
  • There is great debate about when the actual codes were written and what the historical setting for them originally might have been. No scholar believes it was the time of Moses.
    • Post-exilic, after they are released from Babylon. It was a time of resurrecting the faith, that had been weakened by a generation spent in Babylon. This is called the Priestly writings of Bible and many such writings from this time are identified in the first five books of the bible. The goal was to help the Israelites be set apart, holy, now by relating this to how their ancestors acted before.
    • While in exile in Babylon.
    • Before the exile in Babylon, in the reign of the kings.
    • All three, a collection of codes, prohibitions and laws dating from many different generations that were organized into the Holiness Code after the exile.
  • Chapter 18:6-30 and 20:10-24 deal with proper sexual behavior for people who want to be holy. They document forbidden sexual behavior. Most would be forbidden today too, incest, adultery, bestiality, and boundaries of sexual relationships within families. We would be disappointed with the male centric way these laws are written. Canaan did these things, scripture says and this is why God is taking their land from them.
  • Chapter 18 and 20 verses differ on who is punished. Just the one who committed the act is punished in 18, whereas both in verse 20.
  • A constant is that the act is an abomination. This means something that is hated by God or incompatible with the nature of God. The punishment for this abomination is death. The activity that is being condemned is anal intercourse. The problem is  that the activity results in a confusion of gender roles, since one male is acting as though he were female. This kind of breaking of the boundaries God sets for us constitutes a threat to the purity of the land.
  • Middle Eastern cultures have placed more stigma on being the “woman” in the male to male anal intercourse. This scripture then makes clear both are condemned.
  • Different responses to how the laws apply to us today
    • It refers to cultic male prostitution in Canaan that does not exist now and would not be accepted by anyone today if it did. The problem is that there is little evidence of this. Plus, they are in a group of laws about family and community not worship.
    • The laws are a part of Israel’s concern for procreation, that are not an important issue for Israel or humanity today. Not only do agrarian societies need a lot of children to thrive, Israel did especially to overwhelm the Canaanites. So, spilling of the seed (semen) was a big deal in these laws. Therefore, these laws are for a particular for a time and place, and not universal for all time and place.Critics question where this argument is made fully in scripture.
    • Many scholars accept that God’s intention for creation is at the heart of this law and others. They counter that since our understanding of creation is so different today, these laws from a pre modern view of creation do not make sense and are no longer applicable for us. For example, one of the problems with anal sex was that men shouldn’t make a woman of a man, because that was obviously moving him beneath his created dominant station, something we don’t believe any longer. Concepts of sexual orientation, heterosexuality and homosexulaity were unknown to biblical writers. The problem with this is that it creates a slippery slope that makes one wonder what one can believe is applicable in scripture, since much of our understanding of the world has changed since it is written.
    • Some believe the law only deals with abnormal sexual behavior in the eyes of the ancient Israelites,  and not meant to become the law for all cultures. According to this view every culture has their view of what is normal and abnormal, and one culture should not inflict their view on another. This reading makes one wonder what law would be applicable in scripture, then.
      • The counter to this question by critics is that this is exactly the work of the church, the gathered people of God. As Mark Allan Powell poses, “the problem for interpreters is to discern which passages speak of what Christians should regard as enduring or universal standards and which reflect matters specific to the culture of Israel.” The New Testament church began that process and set aside many of the purity laws, i.e. stopped believing Christians were bound to keep them. However, Leviticus 19:18 in the Holiness Code became the heart of the Christian faith. That this is the work of the early church is accepted by most scholars, but many counter that homosexuality is unlike dietary laws which are specifically overturned in the New Testament, homosexual activity remains prohibitive in the New Testament.


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.

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