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The Biblical Position on Homosexuality

 

"Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals. . . . will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10 NASB)

 

 

 

A Doctrine of Tolerance

 

There was a time when this country stood unmovable against biblical offences such as homosexuality (and abortion)—even enacting laws against such practices.[1] What we use to call an abomination and see as evil are now tolerated and recognized as a “cultural norm.” Now, we expect the unregenerate to embrace, promote, and even applaud homosexuality and other ungodly practices. But when professing Christians, due to biblical ignorance, accept a homosexual lifestyle as OK, thus, as biblically permissible, that is a tragedy. God is love, yes, but “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). God is perfect and righteous and takes a dim view at those who say, “Jesus is Lord,” then dishonor Him by their practice and/or toleration towards egregious sins—Scripture is crystal-clear on the subject.

 

What is alarming is the growing community of pro-homosexual “professing” Christians. Predictably, they all make the same assertions in order to make the Bible conform to their lifestyle and practices, such as, “I was born this way”; “The Leviticus passages (chaps. 18 and 20) refer only to temple prostitution”; “David loved Jonathan in a homosexual way”; “Jesus never condemned it”; “God unconditionally loves everyone”; “In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul only condemned prostitutes and pederasts, not monogamous male-to-male relationships,” etc. Thus, they bluntly disagree that there are definitive biblical prohibitions against homosexuality.

 

Those who practice homosexuality and those who arbitrarily condone it, sacrifice the absolute authoritative Word of God for the sake of their own philosophy, lifestyle, and/or tolerance.

 

 

 

The Biblical Prohibition 

 

The Bible has much to say on the topic starting in the OT Law:

 

Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

 

Leviticus 20:13: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.”

 

 

In spite of the clarity of these passages, liberal theologians and pro-homosexual advocates attempt to downplay these OT precepts by limiting the homosexual prohibition to a cultural meaning (e.g., referring to temple prostitution). However, if the prohibitions were speaking only against temple prostitution, why then are only male to males mentioned. Why would not the law include both men and women or say plainly “temple prostitution”? Also, contextually the prohibition against homosexual acts are sandwiched between the other laws concerning sexual behavior, such as prohibiting sex with an uncle, aunt, animals, etc. Thus, the context does not allow for such a limitation as temple prostitution. Now, the law does indeed speak explicitly against temple prostitution, but not in Leviticus, rather in Deuteronomy 23:17-18. The fact is, the passages in Leviticus are not vague commandments against prostitution, but specific injunctions against homosexuality in all forms—as severely condemned in the NT as well.      

 

 

New Testament

 

The NT provides the same categorical condemnation against the sin of homosexuality as in the OT—primarily, in Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10. Before we examine these texts, an argument that liberals and skeptics like to propose should first be mentioned. They point out that Jesus Himself nowhere condemned homosexuality, so it must be permitted. In response to this ridiculous argument, it is preposterous to assume that Jesus covered every single doctrine and repeated every single commandment contained in the OT in a period of three years. In point of fact, many doctrines, He left up to His apostles to teach. Thus, many things that Jesus said and did are not recorded in the NT, “If they were,” says the Apostle John, “I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).   

 

 

Romans 1:18-32

 

Paul’s entire thesis here is contextually dealing with the suppression of truth by pagans and its consequences (viz. God’s wrath “continuing” to be on them; cf. v. 18). Paul uses an argument from nature (creation) to show that they are without excuse—for “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25). Thus, they have “abandoned the natural function”:

 

men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error (v. 27).

 

Alluding to Leviticus 18 and 20, Paul sees homosexuality as not only unnatural, but as having the same consequence as stated in the OT: “those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (v. 32)—even for the ones that approve of it. The liberals and skeptics cannot remove the contextual significance of verse 27 from Romans 1:18-32. 

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 6:9-10:  

 

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [malakoi], nor homosexuals [arsenokoitai], nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

 

 

 

1 Timothy 1:9-10:

 

“. . . for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals [arsenokoitais], and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.”

 

The two key Greek terms in these passages (both in the plural) are MALAKOS translated as “homosexual” or “effeminate” and ARSENOKOITĒS also translated as “homosexual” or more literally, “sodomite” (NKJV) or “men who have sex with men” (NIV). To circumvent the obvious meaning in these passages, liberals and pro-homosexual “professing” Christians make eisegetical leaps arguing that these terms are narrowly referring to “promiscuous” homosexuality, pederasty,  prostitution, etc., and not a monogamous loving relationship between two of the same sex. Again, advocates who impose such an erroneous and distorted view on the biblical text do so, not on the ground of exegetical interaction (proper interpretation), but rather, to comfort their own lifestyle—thus making the Bible say what they want it to say. In response to this frail attempt to limit the meaning of malakos and arsenokoitēs, consider the following:  

 

1) Lexically[2]

The lexical information militates against a narrow scope of meaning and clearly affirms that malakos and arsenokoitēs refer to homosexuality in any form:    

 

Malakos literally means “soft.” It appears in four places in the NT. In every place, the term refers to “soft garment/clothing” (cf. Matt. 11:8) except in 1 Corinthians 6:9, where contextually it refers to the “soft” passive (effeminate) partner in a homosexual relationship.

 

Arsenokoitēs is a compound term from arsēn, “a male” and koitē, “a mat/bed,” thus, “a man” “in bed” with another man—a homosexual. Note, arsenokoitēs refers to the dominate partner in contrast to the passive-“soft” (malakos) partner. As with a number of other languages, Greek distinguishes the active dominate (arsenokoitēs) and the passive effeminate (malakos) roles in a homosexual relationship. Although the terms can refer to prostitution, pederasty, etc., note the lexical definition of arsenokoitēs (in the context of 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10) in which no limitation is placed—thus, homosexuality in all forms:   

 

Ř  Thayer: “One who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite: 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10.”

 

Ř  BDAG: “A male who engages in sexual activity w. a pers. of his own sex, pederast 1 Cor 6:9. . . . of one who assumes the dominant role in same-sex activity.” 

 

Ř  Louw & Nida: “a male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’”

 

Ř  Friberg, Friberg, & Miller: “an adult male who practices sexual intercourse with another adult male or a boy homosexual, sodomite, pederast.”

 

2) Paul & the LXX[3]

The LXX of Leviticus 18:22 literally reads: “with a male [arsenos] you shall not lie [koimaō], in bed/intercourse [koitē] [as with] of a woman. . . .” And Leviticus 20:13 literally reads: “whoever lies [koimēthē] with a male in bed/intercourse [arsenos koitēn] as those who lie in bed/intercourse [koitēn] with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.” Apparently, the source of Paul’s usage of arsenokoitēs (again, from arsēn, “a male” and koitē, “a mat/bed”) comes from the Levitical (LXX) phrase arsenos koitēn (“man in bed/intercourse”), which shows unequivocally the apostle’s intended meaning of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. To limit the term in these texts to only prostitution or pederasty is a faulty and, thus, eisegetical interpretation. 

 

3) Context

 

As with the Leviticus passages, the sins surrounding malakos and arsenokoitēs in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are in the same category of other abominable sins such as murder, idolatry, etc. Therefore, in the context of both passages, God unequivocally condemns homosexuality in all forms, which is consistent with the OT prohibitions.  

 

Conservative scholarship stands. Standard lexicons and leading Christian scholars (e.g., Gill; Jamieson-Fausset-Brown; Robertson; Clark; Reymond; Carson, White et al.) see no ambiguity of meaning in the key passages in both the OT and NT prohibiting and condemning the unnatural and abominable practice of homosexuality: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [malakos], nor homosexuals [arsenokoitēs] . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. . . . Such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

 

 

God is mocked by deliberate misinterpretations of His Word by those who attempt to make the Bible “fit” their lifestyle. We must proclaim in love the truth of Scripture to both the unregenerate and wayward Christians who are practicing things that are “contrary to Scripture.” We must pray that God delivers them from such practices.

 

NOTES

[1] Before 1962, for example, sodomy was a felony in every state.

[2] A lexicon is a type of dictionary providing the definition of terms in their original significance.    

[3] LXX is the abbreviation of the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the OT that Jesus and the apostles abundantly utilized.