How can you say that Romans 1 has nothing to do with homosexuality?
by Justin Bruce
(Jackson, MS, United States)
We understand that Romans 1 has nothing to do with homosexuality because gays and lesbians are never mentioned in Romans 1. There were many common Greek and Latin words Paul could have used IF he intended us to believe that homosexuality is wrong. He did not use any of the Greek or Latin words commonly used in the first century to describe folks today labeled gay and lesbian.
The honest answer to your question is that two men loving each other and partnering for life or two women loving each other and partnering for life is different from people in the Bible, often heterosexual, who used sex to worship the fertility goddess.
The Bible has much to say about fornication and often warns against worshiping other gods. We are warned against fornication in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. But we do not conclude from the warnings against fornication that all heterosexual sex is wrong. The Bible tells us:
"Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." -Hebrews 13:5, KJV
God puts a loving, faithful, committed marriage partnership in a class apart from the fornicating life-style of whoremongers and adulterers.
Just so, in Romans 1,
God addresses a problem that plagued ancient Israel, which was also a problem for people who lived in first century Rome. That problem was not homosexuality. Paul and God were not addressing gay men or lesbian women falling in love and deciding to spend their lives in committed partnership. And they weren't talking about gay dating or gay people in general.
The context of Romans 1 is specifically about idolatry and it's result, which was shrine prostitution.
The context in Romans 1 is not now and never has been homosexuality in general.
In his classic work, The Construction of Homosexuality,
David Greenberg cites 1 Kings 22:41-50, 2 Kings 3, 2 Chronicles 17-20, 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-31, 2 Kings 23:2, 2 Chronicles 34:1-7, 1 Kings 15:12, 1 Kings 22:47, 2 Kings 23:7 which detail Israel's worship of Astoreth via cult prostitution. Then Greenberg makes this illuminating statement.
"It cannot be stressed too strongly that none of the campaigns (in Israel) against cult prostitution was directed at homosexuality in the population at large.
The targets were religious cults associated with foreign powers. Nationalist rulers suppressed these cults when they strove for independence from rival powers.
In so doing, they tried to abolish the ritual practices associated with these cults, including homosexual prostitution."
The Construction of Homosexuality, p. 141.
The mindset of some Christians is to condemn all gays and lesbians simply because they are members of the group labeled homosexual. Yet condemning every member of a group is as foolish and off-base as condemning everyone who is heterosexual, based on the sinful activity of a few. For example, scripture records several heterosexual rapes.
- Genesis 34:1-2
- Judges 19:24-25, 20:5
- 2 Samuel 13:1-2, 11-14
We do not conclude that all heterosexual intimate partnerships are wrong based on three Bible passages about heterosexual rape.
In the same way, (1) scripture depicts the men of Sodom attempting to rape angels and (2) scripture condemns same sex activity in the context of worshiping Molech
and Ashtoreth, his fertility goddess consort, Lev 18:22 & 20:13 and Cybele worship in Romans 1.
Yet it is wrong to conclude based on Bible verses about attempted rape in Sodom
and pagan idolatry in Rome, that all gay and lesbian relationships are wrong.
When we affirm committed, faithful, non-cultic GLBT relationships, we are not affirming attempted rape or pagan worship of the Canaanite and Roman fertility goddess or prostitution or drunkenness.
Heterosexuals engage in abominable public sexual activity during Mardi Gras and on spring break in cities around the world yet no one assumes that affirming heterosexuality implies affirmation of sinful celebration of Mardi Gras and or fornicating during Spring Break.
When we affirm committed, faithful, non-cultic gay relationships, that in no way implies that we affirm any sin prohibited in scripture, rightly divided, 2 Timothy 2:15.
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