Does "likewise" in Romans 1:27 equate gay sex with lesbian sex?


(Washington DC)

Augustine, AD 354-430

Augustine, AD 354-430

One of the popular mis-interpretations of Romans 1:26-27 is that its talking about lesbians in v. 26 and gay men in v. 27. I disagree with that view for five thoughtful reasons.

I. Instead of interpreting Romans 1:26-27 as Paul blasting lesbians and gay men, it better fits the context of Paul's argument against idolatry, to understand that he is describing female shrine prostitutes in v. 26 and male shrine prostitutes in v. 27. Both groups practiced idolatry in first century Rome.

II. Early Christians understood Romans 1:26 to be talking about non-procreative heterosexual sex, not lesbian sex.

  1. Aristides, in AD 126, understood Paul in Romans 1 to be referring to shrine prostitution, as did Justin Martyr, around AD 150. Both men were native Greek speakers who lived within 100 years of the apostle Paul.

    They were intimately familiar with Roman culture and doctrinal beliefs in the early church. If anyone had insight into what Paul meant in Romans 1, it would be these two preachers and they understood Paul to be describing shrine prostitution in Romans 1. Have you given that dramatic fact the weight it deserves in your consideration of this important passage?

  2. Clement of Alexandria, around AD 200, Anastasios, around the mid 200s AD, Augustine, around AD 380, understood Romans 1:26 to be referring to women having non-procreative sex with men.
    Anastasios, an early Christian writer, wrote a marginal note in his copy of Clement's book, Paidagogos, at the point at which Clement cites Romans 1:26.

    In his note, Anastasios clearly dismisses the view that Paul was referring to lesbianism in his comments on Romans 1:26. He says: "Clearly they (the females in v. 26) do not go into one another but rather offer themselves to the men." -Brooton, Love Between Women, 1996, p. 337

    Augustine wrote: "But if one has relations (even with one's wife) in a part of the body which was not made for begetting children, such relations are against nature and indecent. In fact, the same apostle earlier said the same thing about women. 'For their women exchanged natural relations for those which are against nature.'" -Augustine, Marriage and Desire, 20:35

  3. Baptist Commentator John Gill, 1697-1771, and Derrick Sherwin Bailey, 1910-1984, hold the same view about Romans 1:26, that its referring to non-procreative sex between men and women.

III. "Likewise" does link v. 26 with v. 27 but since the link is part of Paul's argument against idolatry, the similarity between v. 26 and v. 27 points us to the idolatry of men and women committing the sin of shrine prostitution, not homosexuality. Homosexuality is not shrine prostitution because things different are not equal.

IV. Ancient Jews did not understand Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as prohibitions of lesbianism. Therefore it makes no sense to believe that Paul, a first century Jew, would suddenly adopt a modern argument against lesbians and insert it into his argument against idolatry.

V. There is only one female sexual practice which is condemned in the Old Testament, which also has a male counterpart which is condemned in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 23:17-18 AND which was also practiced in first century Rome. That condemned sexual practice for both women and men is shrine prostitution in worship of the fertility goddess.

Related Links


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What did against nature mean in the first century AD?

Does the Bible say homosexuals will go to hell?

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Original question:

"I understand what you are saying about what is meant by the Bible when it says the women went against nature (Romans 1:26). I too believe that can be interpreted to mean sex with angels, anal sex to avoid pregnancy, etc.

However when it says in the next verse, "likewise the men also turned and were consumed with lust for one another," doesn't it seem to be saying that the men having sex with one another was unnatural and from that it seems to point to the previous verse and mean that women with women is unnatural?

My thoughts are a little jumbled because it's hard to not get emotional over this topic and it sometimes clouds my thinking. I hope you can understand my question."

Comments for Does "likewise" in Romans 1:27 equate gay sex with lesbian sex?

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Feb 18, 2010
stop this wickedness
by: Anonymous

Romans1:28 is about people like you so you try to twist it. Do you think you can escape the wrath of God. God would have made clear that he did not want homosexual practices in front of idols if thats wot he did not like but he spoke against it in general. Now you want to twist the gospel to send others to hell like you?. God will judge you severely my dear ones. Woe unto those who lead others into sin. Rom1:18-19 will apply to you if u dont repent my dear bros and siters. This is not nice and u know it. you are just trying to satify your evil desires and u dont want to be in it alone. U want others in it so u can feel good about your own. Be warned, be warned, be warned.
Jesus loves you.

Feb 18, 2010
Dont twist the word of God.
by: Anonymous

Rev 22:18 I, John, solemnly warn everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: if any add anything to them, God will add to their punishment the plagues described in this book.

Rev 22:19 And if any take anything away from the prophetic words of this book, God will take away from them their share of the fruit of the tree of life and of the Holy City, which are described in this book.

Mat 19:4 Jesus answered, "Haven't you read the scripture that says that in the beginning the Creator made people male and female?

Mat 19:5 And God said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.'
Mat 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one. No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together."

The devil is gay and so cant procreate so he wants people to be like him thats the reason why he is deceiving pple to go his way.

(Dan11:37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all)
Be warned.

God procreates but satan cannot. God wants man to procreate but satan does not.

Jesus loves you.

May 16, 2010
Stop flogging an agenda
by: Rick Brentlinger

To both Anonymous posters-

Obviously you two cannot read plain English. Instead of pushing your personal anti-gay agenda, why not "study to show yourself approved unto God?" 2 Timothy 2:15.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, you will give account for your lazy "I refuse to study" false teaching and your irrational prejudice against your gay brothers and lesbian sisters.

Feb 12, 2012
Not convinced
by: Rich

First, the Lord saved me as a teenager out of a pagan home. By the grace of God, my heart was turned to Christ to whom I serve with fear. As a teenager, I was fairly ignorant of homosexuality except for the observation of males criticizing effeminate behaviors of fellow classmates. There was a time, that I clearly recall, when I made the local news: I believe that it was the following day when a man called me at home and wanted to "meet with me" at the mall. This actually placed a great fear in my heart and I do not attribute this despicable predatory act to all homosexuals.

Regardless, focusing on Romans 1:27, the context is creation and rejecting God. Humanity is cursed with rejecting God, remember that no one seeks after God (Ps 53:3). Unfortunately, this all-out rejection of God results in the inability to seek after God and the flesh being in control. The Spirit has confirmed in my heart that it is error to simply pass off the context to idol worship. The overall context for doctrine (godly living) always goes back to Creation (continuity in scripture).

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and we should not overlook the creation-based principles (v20) of this and other doctrinal passages. An example would be the headship of man over the woman, 1 Corinthians 11.

So my friends and perhaps even brothers, I am not convinced of this teaching. You suffer from the lust of the flesh just as myself. May the grace and mercy of God be extended to us all the days of our lives. Praise be to the Father of Jesus Christ, Savior, Creator and Lord of all.

Feb 12, 2012
The Holy Spirit NEVER leads us contrary to the written word
by: Rick Brentlinger

Rich, I'm so happy to know that you got saved as a teenager, even though you grew up in a pagan home. What a blessing to know God has brought you through so much. Yet I must take issue with some of what you said.

God's Holy Spirit never leads us contrary to His written word. So when you say The Spirit has confirmed in my heart that it is error to simply pass off the context to idol worship, it means nothing. God gave scripture in historical context and expects us to rightly divide the word, 2 Timothy 2:15. Part of rightly dividing is to factor in cultural, historical and religious context.

What you're doing is refusing to think for yourself while attempting to look spiritual by proclaiming that the Spirit showed you something. That sounds pious but it doesn't get you off the hook.

You are responsible to God for obeying 2 Tim 2:15. When you refuse to obey, all the good intentions on earth won't change the fact that you're disobedient. If you truly love your gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you will stop ripping verses out of context to teach a lie.

I believe part of the reason you are not convinced is because you are unwilling to put in enough time studying Romans 1. And part of the reason you are not convinced is because you prefer to cling to an anti-gay teaching that has no support in early church history.

I encourage you to study and then study some more. As you study, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into His truth, John 16:13.

Jul 01, 2012
If gay marriage is ok, why not make polygamy, incest, or pedophilia, OK?
by: Anonymous

If gay marriage is ok, why not make polygamy, incest, or pedophilia, OK?

And all of aforementioned in the name of 'LOVE' will justify them all?

Do the "ends" justify the "means" at any cost?

Are gays really being honest with themselves and others in "coming out of the closet"? Why the need for gay "pride" in the first place decades ago?

Perhaps someone can explain why they want to shame others for their hate or homophobia when they themselves needed to advertise and promote their own "pride" well before anyone knew about gay pride?

Rick's comment: Excellent job of ignoring the particular question I answered. You will make a good fundamentalist, always dodging the question, always ignoring truth, eternally ignorant.

Since you obviously NEVER study your Bible, I'll try to be helpful.

1. In the Bible, polygamy WAS okay and was a Biblical family value. God creating the nation of Israel from the 12 children of Jacob and his four wives is a good example of that.

2. In the Bible, incest WAS okay and was a Biblical family value. Abraham marrying his half-sister Sarah is a good example of that.

3. Pedophilia was never okay in the Bible and the Bible never compares being gay to being a pedophile. God was content to leave that kind of mean-spirited stupidity to fake christians like you.



Jan 13, 2013
Men with men
by: Anonymous

Why does it say men with men if it is talking about anal sex?

Just another point, quit saying all anti-gay remarks are mean spirited some do mean well and believe bible says it's a sin.

Rick's comment: I don't understand your first question. I've never said ALL anti-gay remarks are mean spirited.

If people meant well, they would factor context into their interpretation. That they refuse to factor in context indicates they do not mean well.

People who mean well do not rip verses out of context in their attempt to make the verse mean something it doesn't mean in context.

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