Are lesbians treated the same as gays in the Bible?

San Francisco Pride, June 27, 2004

San Francisco Pride, June 27, 2004



From a purely scriptural perspective, lesbians are treated exactly the same as gay men in that lesbians are never mentioned in a negative way in the Bible. Gay men are also never mentioned in a negative way in the Bible. The verses some anti-gay Christians use against gay men are, in context, referring to cult shrine temple prostitutes, not to gay men.

Shrine prostitutes were pagan worshipers of the fertility goddess. They were not lesbians and they were not gay men. Most people who are familiar with what the Bible says in context, admit that no verse in the Bible says shrine prostitutes were gay men or lesbians.

Many Christians falsely assume that if Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 prohibit gay male partnerships then the same verses, by inference, must also prohibit lesbian partnerships. For that reason, many Christians believe that Paul's allegedly anti-lesbian statement in Romans 1:26 is based on his Jewish understanding of Lev 18:22.

"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:" -Romans 1:26
Of course, the problem with that line of thought is that
ancient Jews DID NOT
understand Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as prohibitions of lesbianism.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 were written around 1450 BC yet no Jewish rabbi linked those verses to same sex couples until 2500 years later (AD 1100 time frame). If those verses were speaking of lesbians, wouldn't some secular Jewish writer or one of the human authors of the Old Testament have mentioned that important fact?

Moses Maimonides made the link in the 12th century AD but still insisted that lesbian conduct did NOT disqualify a woman from marrying a Jewish priest. Therefore, every modern preacher who reads a prohibition of lesbianism into the Leviticus passages and then transfers that false assumption over to Romans 1:26 will always get Romans 1:26 wrong.

Paul's argument in Romans 1:26 is about idolatry - not lesbianism, not homosexuality, not bisexuals, not transgendered people. The sexual conduct Paul deplores in Romans 1:26 and 1:27 is conduct linked to idolatry. The specific idolatrous conduct that Paul refers to and which both women and men shared was shrine prostitution.




Rabbi Jacob Milgrom,
Jewish scholar and author


Rabbi Jacob Milgrom died June 6, 2010 at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem of a brain hemorrhage related to a fall. He was 87. Author of the 3 volume, 3000 page resource, Leviticus: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary, (Vol II), Dr. Milgrom presents 8 interesting reasons why lesbians are not mentioned in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 or elsewhere in the Old Testament.

8 reasons why lesbians
are not mentioned
in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

  • First, there is no penetration by the male.

  • Second, there is no transfer of semen.

  • Third, women were an underclass, so lesbianism posed no danger to family structure since women were compelled to marry a man.

  • Fourth, since female-female sexuality carried no risk of procreation, lesbianism posed no problem in determining paternity of children.

  • Fifth, some assert (falsely) that lesbianism may have been unknown to the Israelites and Canaanites. Because lesbianism is not mentioned in any legal materials from this time period in the ancient Near East, there was no reason to legislate against it.

  • Sixth, a woman could not loose her ‘manly honour’ in a sexual relationship with another woman.

  • Seventh, female same-sex activity did not challenge male domination.

  • Eighth, the male authors of scripture were more interested in males and their behavior than in females and their behavior.

Rabbi Milgrom comments further

"This Biblical prohibition is addressed only to Jews. Non-Jews are affected only if they reside in the Holy Land, but not elsewhere (see the closing exhortation in Leviticus 18:24-30). Thus, it is incorrect to apply this prohibition on a universal scale...

What is the rationale for this prohibition... in the entire list of forbidden sexual unions (in Leviticus 18 and 20), there is no prohibition against lesbianism.

Can it be that lesbianism did not exist in ancient times or that Scripture was unaware? Lesbians existed and flourished, as attested in an old (pre-Israelite) Babylonian text and in the work of the lesbian poet Sappho (born circa 612 BC, during the time of the First Temple), who came from the island of Lesbos (hence lesbianism).

But there is a fundamental difference between the homosexual acts of men and women. In lesbianism there is no spilling of seed. Thus life is not symbolically lost, and therefore lesbianism is not prohibited in the Bible...

Lesbian couples have an additional advantage. Not only do they not violate Biblical law, but through artificial insemination each can become the natural mother of her children. Thus from the Bible we can infer the following:

1. Lesbians, presumably half of the world's homosexual population, are not mentioned.

2. More than ninety-nine percent of the gays, namely non-Jews, are not addressed. This leaves the small number of male Jewish gays subject to this (Levitical) prohibition."

Dr. Jacob Milgrom's remarks excerpted from an article in, Bible Review, Vol IX, No. 6, December, 1993, published by the Biblical Archaeological Society, 3000 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington D.C., 20008

Additional Information


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Comments for Are lesbians treated the same as gays in the Bible?

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Nov 24, 2010
No Such Thing
by: Anonymous

Look everyone. In order to be a Christian. You must abstain from your behavior. You can feel that way, just not act it out. It's clearly wrong. There is a thing called abstinence and that is the only true repentance from this vile behavior. I encourage you to pray about this matter and ask God to help you repress these sick and perverse feelings.

Nov 24, 2010
Must be a full moon...
by: Rick Brentlinger

I note that you didn't have the courage to deal with anything on this website. Instead you simply attack.

At some point in your life, wouldn't you enjoy being able to intelligently discuss viewpoints with which you disagree?

Mar 27, 2011
is this a joke
by: Anonymous

I can't believe that I am reading this. There is a way that seems right and then there is the narrow gate that Jesus spoke about. Those who enter the broad gate are doomed and the broad gate is created/followed by people who actually believe you can be homosexual, bisexual, or practice beastiality and be saved.

I understand most homos think they were born that way but usually it is due to how they were raised, molestation, lack of love from parents and them seeking love on their own but hanging around the wrong crowd.

I know, I'm the mean guy but Jesus gave everybody the chance to repent. You can choose either way but you have been warned and all will be without excuse on judgement day.

Mar 27, 2011
I feel sorry for you
by: Rick Brentlinger

I notice that you lack the courage to use your name with your comments. Why are christians like you ashamed to put your name with your comments?

Your false accusation that we condone beastiality is simply ridiculous. Do you have the honesty to read our Beastiality page and then apologize for your libel?


Apr 29, 2011
Jews go to Hell
by: Anonymous

Jews go to Hell anyway, so why is this Jew trying to justify the fag lifestyle? Hes going to the same place they are...

Apr 29, 2011
Incredible ignorance
by: Rick Brentlinger

Hey, stop skipping the oat bran and your day will go better. No, I mean it, really! I'm just saying.

"But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant." -1 Corinthians 14:38

Jun 25, 2011
very insightful
by: shiori

That is quite true. You are a true hero for that. You have seen the truth and not some phony accusation. Bravo.

Jul 12, 2011
Dogma, forest for the trees
by: Robert

Dogma - A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

Rabbi Jacob Milgrom's scholarly research into the evolutionary incremental changes that complicate biblical interpretation of what is and is not the truth clearly reveals to me that dogma leaves much to be desired when contemplating the complexities of spiritual understanding and may be the very obstacle to enlightenment.

Why the obsession with something as trivial as sexual preference? Why all the preoccupation with wedge issues that marginalize love and compassion. Is conflict and discrimination the pillar of western religious thought?

Sep 20, 2011
Last Day
by: Paul

Truly the signs of last day is glaring, people will be lover of themselves, they will continue to preach false doctrine in order to accommodate their lust.

Let me ask this question, if God so accept your practice why did HE create us male and female, then you could have said Gen 1: 27 -28 was a fluke and was not intended for you. Because of fleshy pleasure you turn the truth of God upside down by giving it different means that your thought calls for.

Thank be to God that His thought are not our thought, you could have intended to fool everyone that eve was a man not woman.

Oct 16, 2011
It comes down to, Do you have faith in Jesus?
by: Anonymous

In the end, it's all up to your faith in Jesus. You can only seek forgiveness through Him, and nothing else.

Dec 30, 2011
Wake up and use your mind
by: Rational mind

For long as there is ignorance and hate, and the bible justifies it, there will always be this problem. Most people do not follow what is in the bible, but when it comes to gays it's a different story. It just give people a reason to hate. The bible says slavery is okay but modern humans know that is wrong!

If God really hated gays, hermaphrodites and inter-sexed people would not exist but they do. So what are they to do since whoever they sleep with would be a homosexual act. People need to wake up and stop this. Christians wonder why so many people are turning to Satan instead of God. People need to look around and wake up!

Jan 08, 2012
Context is important
by: Jeffrey

Understanding God is a lot more than reading the words in the Bible. The words we read are in English, but none of them were originally written in English... I have a precise parallel Bible. It is amazing how different the various English versions read. Without an understanding of context, reading Scripture in a vacuum will likely lead the well-meaning far astray.

That said, I believe that the Bible is wonderful for helping us understand what God wants. When I want to know what God wants, the Bible is my first resource...

It is my understanding that God does not want us to judge, so therefore I do not judge. I leave the judging to God. I am sure he is much better at it than I am. Better than all of us. Yes?

I am not gay, but I know gay people. Some of them do not want to be gay. Some of them pray to be normal. Not one has become straight. Some of them have finally chosen to accept their nature. But I am convinced that it would be unnatural and wrong for them to act other than according to their true nature. Even though I do not truly understand them, I am convinced that God does not want us to persecute them and certainly not in His name!

Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and mind and soul. Love thy neighbor as thy-self. and where in those commandments does it say, but hate the homosexuals?

Mar 06, 2012
we don't have to vote for gay marriage
by: Anonymous

I will never vote to make an abomination legal. If two people agree between them that are of the same sex, to engage in homosexual behavior, that's their business. I've met some very nice people that are gay and lesbian. I don't understand it, and I have desire to listen to them justify it. You can't justify sin, and it's a sin against the body and against God. You can't tell people how to live, and we have to treat everyone with dignity and respect, but we don't have to vote for gay and lesbian marriage.

May 17, 2012
What is it the pot calls the kettle?
by: Dan

I psted two responses on your website. After the first response you commented that I was cowardly because I forgot to post my name as the author. My second response that I wrote - with my name - you would not even post. I believe that gay bashing is wrong because it fails to demonstrate the love of Christ to those you are trying to minister to. However, I do not have as much of a problem with people being gay as I do with people being gay and then trying to sanction their conduct with the use of Scripture and, to top it all, doing so in the name of Christ. Peter spoke of this in 1 Peter 3:16 when he said that those who wrestle with the scriptures do so to their own distruction. How interesting that you refuse to post my commentary on the scriptures, yet call me the coward.

Rick's comment: Dan, I see no point in posting every inane comment from folks like you who refuse to deal with anything written on this website. Citing the same out of context verses, restating the same old opinions is a waste of time.

The truth is, you refuse to study the Bible in context. You love to rip verses out of context and insist they mean something they didn't mean in context. Really, aren't you getting tired of doing that?

In your heart of hearts, don't you ever long to be honest? Deep down in the depths of your soul, isn't there a longing to teach the Bible in context, even when it disagrees with your anti-gay dogma?

May 18, 2012
The Challenge
by: Dan

How easy it is to charge people with taking scripture our of context without bakcing it up. I challenge you to quote my comments and demonstrate exegetically (from the text - not from your own non-textual reasoning) how I took the text out of context. The fact is you do not care about the Lordship of Christ but about defending your own ungodliness which is the worship of self called idolatry.

Rick's comment: LOL Dan, there you go again. The world wide web is full of opinions from guys like you, who make false accusations from hearts full of angst.

I have more than 650 pages of high quality information on this website, much of it sourced with links to the anti-gay authors who produced it, many of whom are world-class authorities, which answers your goofy anti-gay screed.

I will not allow you to use this website to rehash your anti-gay rant. If you want a large audience like mine, do the intellectual and spiritual work of learning what you're talking about first. Then build a website which attracts a large audience to present your views.

Jul 19, 2012
Is a lesbian a sinner?
by: Anonymous

Is a lesbian a sinner? Her true heart knows...

Rick's comment: Please keep comments focused on the topic: Are lesbians treated the same as gays in the Bible. I deleted most of your comment because it was off-topic.

Oct 22, 2012
Did Jesus mention homosexuality?
by: Anonymous

When Jesus was asked a question from the Pharisees concerning marriage and divorce, He only mention directly to a man and woman. Because, if that was the case he would also mention instructions concerning how to live as a homosexual, but he did not. Jesus directly said, for this cause shall a man leave his mother and father and to cleave on to his wife and the two become one flesh.

Genesis 2:21-24
Matthew 19:3-9
Mark 10:2-12
Ephesians 5:22-33

Rick's comment: In Matthew 19:3-12, heterosexual Jewish men living under the law in Israel while Messiah walked among them asked Jesus a specific question about their horrendous heterosexual divorce practices, alluding to a raging controversy in their day between the school of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai.

Contrary to what you stated, Jesus DID mention gays in Matthew 19:12 when he listed categories of eunuchs. The first category Jesus mentions is "born eunuchs," people who were born that way.

The leading anti-gay speaker and author of the 21st century is Dr. Robert Gagnon. Even Dr. Gagnon admits that the category born eunuch included homosexuals.

I encourage you to read my pages about eunuchs and educate yourself on this issue. There is a wealth of information which you need to learn so that you can write intelligently on this topic. Many thanks for stopping by.

Jan 25, 2013
no more judgment
by: Anonymous

no one who is righteous and we HAVE to faithfully pray to GOD to help us interprate His word correctly and wisely.

Jan 25, 2013
We all sin
by: Anonymous

We all sin. Who are we to stand in self righteous judgment over others because their sin is different than ours. Sin is sin. How many are guilty of fornication (living together outside of marriage) how many are guilty of adultery (cheating on your spouse) there are so many types of sexual sins.

Unforgiveness can keep us out of heaven too, among so many other kinds of sins, and how many people harbor bitterness in their heart towards someone? You can go to hell for that! I'm not defending sin, I'm a sinner too, I'm just saying sin and sin, we need to leave the homosexuals alone, in the same way those who live together out side of marriage want to be left alone.

You can't force anyone to honor the scriptures, the Lord doesn't even do that. The wheel of judgement may seem to be grinding slowly but it's judgment is coming, we all need to glorify god in our body our mind and our actions, how many of us do that? And God commands it. Just saying.

Feb 25, 2013
Refreshing
by: Anonymous

It's refreshing to hear something other than condemnation.

I am a woman and was always a "tomboy" as a kid. I always felt like I should have been a boy. When I grew up I did what was expected and married a man and had kids. I've never enjoyed sex with a man, God knows I wanted to.

Ten years ago I met a woman with whom I've had a lesbian relationship and when I'm with her it "feels right" though it's always "felt wrong" with men.

I struggle greatly with this because I am a Christian and, it seems, most Christian churches would have me believe I am an "abomination" and will burn in hell. I don't want to burn in hell, but I enjoy the loving relationship I share with my female lover and can't understand how that can be wrong.

Mar 04, 2013
Children of God
by: Barbara

Beloved children of the Living God. Be still and listen to God's word, let it penetrate your spirit, then YOU will understand the truth.

One of my best friends and neighbors, a lesbian (your title for her lifestyle), I consider her a Christian sister, that I love. She has been married and has three children but after years of abuse, found much peace with her life partner for 25 years, who just recently passed away. Her last breath was giving her spirit unto Christ.

That is it, end of story. She had been forgiven of all her sins. It is not for us to judge anyone but to love them. So if you are a professing Christian, I would say stop judging others, love them and let GOD BE OUR JUDGE. Peace.

Rick's comment: Thanks Barbara.

Mar 23, 2013
i am a god
by: enlightenment

I am the image of god. Which is thyself. Give thanks to a higher power. Meditate. Thank nature the sky the sun.

Rick's comment: I wouldn't get too caught up in pantheism or panentheism. Both are dead ends and lead only to Hell. Wise people tend not to be navel gazers and instead of introspecting about their enormous significance in the universe, trust Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin.

May 20, 2013
Yes, lesbians treated the same as gay men in the Bible.
by: Bro. R.J. Dansby

From both sides of this debate all "I" see is people trying to force scripture to say something it is simply not saying. Lets look at what it does say.

Are all homosexuals going to hell? No! Just like not all who claim to be Christians will go to heaven. Is a homosexual a abomination to God? Yes! Just like all of mankind is! Yes that means all of us Bible beating Christians as well! Our Holy God cannot even look upon us because of our sinfulness.

Thanks be to God for sending His son to cover our sins. Because of the blood of Jesus our sinfulness is hidden from the eyes of the almighty. So if you are gay and Jesus is your Lord and savior, than brother / sister welcome to the family!

I know the next argument - but homosexuality is your continuing un-repented sin. Yes it is! Straight Christian, you mean to tell me you have no continuous sin is your life? Maybe your an alcoholic, addicted to porn? The list is long.

For the gay Christian, their desire for the same sex is the thorn in their side. "Let him without sin cast the first stone." May God bless you ALL!

Rick's comment: I hope you will do a lot more reading of the Bible studies on this website. It is not a sin to be gay and it is not a sin to be in a gay relationship.

May 20, 2013
More reading
by: Bro. R.J. Dansby

Rick, With regards to your comment; I will continue to read the studies and have most already. I must say though that I do not agree with the logic you use to draw your conclusions. One such example is your argument that Christians (anti-gay) jump to the conclusion that gay marriage is wrong simply because there is no references to it in Genesis.

Rick's comment: RJ, you need to read more carefully. That is not the argument I make. Instead, that is the argument made by the anti-gay crowd, which I answer on many pages of this website. Their view is called absolute complementarity.

Are you not employing the same logic? Your assertion is that because no reference to gay marriage, then God must be ok with it.

Rick's comment: No RJ, that is not my logic. Really, since your understanding of this issue is so upside down, you need to re-read and revisit until you at least understand the issues and the arguments. You're not there yet.

I see this as faulty logic on the part of both view points. It's like assuming abortion is ok because scripture doesn't address it. But wait it does! Scripture tell us that if the mothers life is in danger "it is better to cut the unborn child asunder".

Rick's comment: There is NO Bible verse which says that in relation to abortion. You are conflating and confusing several verses, possibly Exodus 21:22 and 1 Kings 3:25. I Kings 3:25 has nothing to do with abortion.

Does that mean God is ok with abortion? No! He gives an exception to the rule. To draw conclusions is pure folly and dangerous; in that doing so we put words in Gods mouth.

Now as far as same sex relationships being sinful, yes as of right now, unless you live in one of the few states that have legalized gay marriage, it's sinful! Any physical relationship outside of marriage is sinful.

Rick's comment: With all due respect, more reading, more study and less pontificating is the order of the day for you RJ.

Jun 04, 2013
Truth
by: Anonymous

The Bible is a collection of the writings of MANY normal people. MOST normal people discriminate homosexual men ONLY. I find this personally unfair and mean. I believe both gays and lesbians are doing wrong IF they don't even TRY suppresing those thoughts/actions. JUST like a straight girl CAN stop herself from kissing/doing it with other guys, so can a lesbian stop herself from kissing/doing it with other girls. Maybe you can't control which sex you like, just like straight people don't really decide specifically who they like. But ALL of us can control our thoughts and mostly, our actions. I hope all of you understand what I meant and took this the right way :)

Rick's comment: Your comment reveals lack of thought, lack of factual information, lack of empathy. Only you can correct those deficiencies

Aug 03, 2013
Wow - Just Wow.
by: Anonymous

It always amazes me to see so many purported Christians who don't have even an inkling of understanding about what they're supposed to believe.

Rick's comment: Isn't THAT the truth! Christians are supposed to believe what the Bible says, in context, NOT the goofy personal opinions of every preacher who vents his spleen from the pulpit.

There's an easy way to understand what's going on when it comes to the Bible and homosexuality. First, the Bible is the story of Christianity, with the Old Testament being in part a lineage description from Adam to David to Jesus. That fact is part of the reason for the ban against homosexuality in men (being gay). Lesbians weren't mentioned not because it was unknown to them, but rather because it was irrelevant. Lesbianism had no effect on the lineage.

Rick's comment: First, the Bible is about WHO is going to run things - (God will run things, NOT men) and the OT is the story of the Jewish people, not Christianity.

Why was there a ban on being gay? Simple, it's the same reason there was a ban on incest (sleeping with a first or second degree relative). First, being gay would cause the men in question to lose respect in the community. This could not be allowed among those who were to be part of the lineage.

Rick's comment: Jonathan and David were greatly respected yet had a famously well-known lovingly intimate relationship. They were the celebrity superstars of their day.

Second, there were probably some weird circumstances that could cause "cross pollination" and also confuse the lineage.

In short, the anti-gay rules were essentially political in nature. The word translated into "abomination" could just as easily have been translated as "corruption". I.E. corruption of the bloodline.

Side note: The other big reason for the ban on sleeping with first degree relatives was because of the "curse", or put simply, the fact that genetic differentiation had reached a point where children produced from such relationships would likely show a defect of some kind. If you keep reading through Leviticus, you'll find "defects" were considered a sign that the person was "unclean" and to be ostracized. Think about it. If Adam and Eve were the first and only 2 people on the planet for a while, then the first hundred generations were almost entirely incestuous!

Rick's comment: Even today, 6000 years after Adam, there is hardly a statistically important difference between birth defects in incestuous marriages and the general population. Did you know that God blessed the incestuous marriage of Abraham and Sarah? See Genesis 20:2 12.

Aug 04, 2013
disturbing
by: Anonymous

It really disturbs me when I see gays and lesbians showing affection in public. It disturbs me as well that there are pastors who condone this. These people are a cult. It's evil!

Rick's comment: At least you know an area of your self that you need to work on. What was it about growing up that caused you to dislike public displays of affection?

Oct 03, 2013
you are all acting like idiots
by: blank

Firstly I would like to say forget any scripture other than genesis on this matter. God created woman for man... Does that one statement there in itself not end all this debate? It is the natural order that men and women coupulate obviously. Also I would like to add that everyone on this page who is being judgemetal will themselves be judged!

Are Christians supposed to judge?

As the word clearly says, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" although there is more to that story this one line it applies here. As no matter what 'side' you belong to you in my opinion you are slinging (metaphorical) stones and therefore you need to look at yourselves and your own examples before judging! Not once do I remember Jesus in the bible being intolerant or cruel and even he said it was only for GOD to judge.

Rick's comment: I encourage you to read Matthew 23 - Jesus got angry when religious leaders rejected truth and taught false doctrine. Jesus called them hypocrites, fools, blind guides. He even looked them in the eye and warned them they were going to Hell in Matthew 23:33.

I do believe that it is against God to be homosexual in any way but I DO NOT judge the people who choose that life as it is their business and theirs alone with God. Notice I said it is their business between themselves and God NOT MY BUSINESS. I realize that I seem judgmental in this but that is not my intention, I ask forgiveness of those who I have offended by writing this.

Mar 11, 2014
Sinful Humanity
by: Monica

Yes of course homosexuality/lesbianism is a sin. Anything that goes against God's Word is a sin. God doesn't hate the sinner God hates sin Period. So stop twisting the Word of God to justify the ungodliness and unrighteousness of gays and lesbians! But you know what? The Word says do not separate the tares from the wheat and at the judgement the goats will be separated from the sheep. I just pray that the consuming fire of God will burn to ashes the evil veil covering your eyes in order to see His Truth before it is too late.

Rick's comment: Hi Monica - I am always amazed at how lacking in biblical support are the comments of the anti-gay crowd. Because we disagree with you on the gay issue, you assume we are lost.

Did it ever occur to you that we disagree because you have not done due diligence on this issue? Did it ever occur to you that we have studied a lot more than you, we know more Bible than you and we have walked in the Spirit as born again saved students of the Bible for more than 50 years. For those reasons, we take a view on the gay issue which differs from yours.

I encourage you to read, memorize and obey 2 Timothy 2:15 in the old King James Version. If the version you use does not say "Study" in 2 Tim 2:15, then please get an old KJV. It is FAR superior to and much more accurate than any of the newer versions. Many thanks for stopping by.

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