FOR ME, the most enlightening work on homosexuality, the Bible and the church is J J McNeill’s book THE CHURCH AND THE HOMOSEXUAL.
This books points out that:
1. The biblical authors had no understanding if homosexuaality like as do today.
2. The word homosexual only came into use in the late part of the 19th century. The men who wrote the bible would not have had the concept of homosexuality.
3. The biblical authors would have only understood it as the phenomenon of heterosexual men turning their back on their women to have sex with other heterosexual men.
4. The Bible does not condemn homosexuality as such ( as that concept did not exist ) but things like male temple prostitution offerings, dishonouring other people and showing contempt to defeated military enemies.
5. In Matthew 10:9-15 Jesus makes it very clear that the sin if Sodom was inhospitality.
6. The limitations on the use of biblical data.
7. Vatican II’s call to interpret scripture.
8. Paul writing in Roman on the whole question of NATURE.
We Christians should believe that JESUS not the bible, is the WORD OF GOD.
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God“.
SOME THIUGHTS FROM FATHER MC NEILL’S BOOK:
For them, men having sex with men meant heterosexual men turning away from women to have had sex with other heterosexual men.
This is what the story of Sodom is about. It is heterosexual men wanting sex with other heterosexual men in order to dishonour them. Their actions were sins of pride and inhospitality.
Jesus himself connects Sodom to tge sin of inhospitality when he said;
MATTHEW 10: 9 – 15.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town”.
Jesus is clearly indicating that the inhospitality of a town rejecting the disciples would be more greatly punished that the inhospitality of Sodom.
THE LIMITATIONS ON THE USE OF BIBLICAL DATA:
There are, however, two limitations to the use of biblical data.
First, the Scriptures are “historically and culturally limited,” so that one cannot merely transpose a text of Scripture to the contemporary circumstances of life.
Second, no thesis would be acceptable which would develop its argument only in terms of individual texts taken out of their context.
VATICAN II ON THE INTERPRETATION IF SCRIPTURE:
We would do well to recall here the words of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council dealing with the interpretation of sacred Scripture
Since God speaks in sacred Scripture through men in a human fashion, the interpreter of sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words. (No. 12)
SODOM AND GOMORRAH:
Some of the best scripture scholars agree that the sin of Sodom was about inhospitality.
First it says ALL THE MEN OF SODOM wanted the strangers out to abuse them.
That would require us to believe that EVERY MAN IN SODOM was a homosexual man wanting sex with other men. That would be a ridiculous assertion.
The strongest New Testament argument against homosexual activity as intrinsically immoral has been derived traditionally from Romans 1:26, where this activity is indicated as para physin. The normal English translation for this phrase has been “against nature.”
As John Boswell notes: “The modern reader is apt to read into that phrase a wealth of associations derived from later philosophical developments, scholastic theology, Freudian psychology, social taboos, as well as personal misgivings.”
Opnce again it is difficult to ascertain what this phrase meant for Paul. The same phrase in Romans 4:18 is used to express the idea that God himself is acting para physin in grafting a wild olive branch (the Gentiles) onto a cultivated tree (the inheritance of the Jews). This usage makes it clear that the phrase itself does not necessarily imply a moral judgment on the action as wrong.
Consequently, two interpretations can be justified concerning what Paul meant by the phrase.
It could refer to the individual pagan, who goes beyond his own sexual appetites in order to indulge in new sexual pleasures.
A strong argument for this interpretation is the explicit reference to the pagans having “abandoned” the “natural uses” of their sexuality for that which is “beyond nature.”
The use here of the aorist participle (aphentes) considerably strengthens the image of a conscious choice of a type of activity contrary to their normal inclinations.
Paul apparently refers only to homosexual acts indulged in by those he considered to be otherwise heterosexually inclined; acts which represent a voluntary act contrary to their ordinary sexual appetite.
William G. Thompson, S.J., is inclined to agree with this interpretation: Concerning the Pauline material, you have come to the same conclusions I have concerning the meaning of “homosexual.”
Let me quote Fr. Fitzmyer’s comments on Romans 1:26: “The contrast between ‘females’ and ‘males’ (1:27) makes it clear that the sexual perversion of which Paul speaks is homosexuality (specifically Lesbianism). The depravity of the perversion is the merited consequence of pagan impiety; having exchanged their true God for a false one (1:25), pagans inevitably exchanged their true natural functions for perverted ones . . . (Jerome Biblical Commentary, Article 53, Number 26).” It seems clear that the situation is one of perversion rather than inversion, as you indicate. Hence the passage does not touch the contemporary issue of homosexuality understood as inversion. Paul simply does not speak to that question.
BIBLE CONDEMNING BRINGING PROSTITUTION MONEY AS OFFERINGS.
None of the Israelite women shall become a temple-prostitute, nor shall any of the Israelite men become a temple-prostitute. You shall never bring the gains of a harlot or the earnings of a male prostitute as a votive offering to the temple of the Lord your God; for both are abominable to the Lord your God.
HOMOSEXUALITY AS SCORN AND AS A WAY OF DISHONOURING DEFEATED MILITARY ENEMIES
Calling attention then to the common practice, especially of the Egyptians, of inflicting sodomy as a punishment upon a defeated male enemy as a symbol of domination, Brun suggests that the principal reason the Israelites regarded homosexual practices as an abomination was that they too viewed sodomy as an expression of scorn; and in a society where the dignity of the male was a primary consideration, voluntary acts of a homosexual nature could not be tolerated. Both parties would then be undermining the very foundations of a patriarchal society; the one because he uses another as a woman; the other because he allows himself to be used as a woman. The dignity of the male is dishonored by both.
THE OLD TESTAMENT EMPHASIS ON NOT DISHONOURING OTHER PEOPLE:
T. C. DeKruijf’s study, The Bible on Sexuality. DeKruijf concludes his survey of Old Testament texts concerning sexual morality by pointing out that the primary message of the Old Testament concerning sexual morality was that love, including sexual love, requires respect for the other person; and the sin which one can commit in sexual conduct with another consists in disperson of a fellow human being. “If one does not acknowledge the only true personal God, it follows unavoidably that one will also not acknowledge one’s fellow man as a person who has a value of his own.”41 As we have seen, J. Edgar Brun found an identical reason for the condemnation of homosexual activities, since in the cultural and historical context of the Old Testament such activities could only be envisaged as expressions of hatred and scorn. The essential evil of homosexual activities appeared to be the dishonoring of a fellow human being.
Fr McNeill’s book is a MUST READ.
His views represent the views of the author of this blog on this question.