Sodom sin? What really happened in ancient Sodom?
Dr. Chris Heard,
Assistant Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University.
Sodom Sin and the truth of scripture. Heterosexual scholar Dr. Chris Heard has kindly given permission to reprint the following excerpt from his Blog, Higgaion.
“The mob’s intention to inflict male-on-male rape on Lot’s visitors has nothing to do with sexual desire or sexual gratification. There is no hint here of homosexuality in the modern sense of “sexual orientation.” The crime has nothing to do with preferring sex with males over sex with females. Claims that the “sin of Sodom” per Genesis 19 related to homosexual orientation run aground on two ridiculous presuppositions.
First, such claims require us to accept the idea that 100% of Sodom’s adult male population was homosexual by orientation. In modern studies, figures of anywhere from 3% to 10% are proposed for the fraction of adult US males who are homosexual by orientation, and when figures closer to 10% have been proposed, evangelical Christians have gone into a tizzy of objections that it can’t possibly be that high.
The angry mob at Lot's door.
Yet some of those very same people who object that the fraction of modern US adult males who are homosexual by orientation can’t possibly be as high as 10% are willing to believe a 100% figure for biblical Sodom. It is just too improbable to believe that 100% of Sodom’s male population preferred sex with males to sex with females. Even if the story is entirely fictional and the people of Sodom just literary characters, the story loses all verisimilitude if we push it to that extreme. Sodom sin.
Second, claims that the “sin of Sodom” per Genesis 19 was male homosexuality require us to believe that either:
(a) the entire male population, every single male in Sodom, had seen the visitors and felt so irresistably attracted to both of them that they felt compelled to rape them in order to gratify their lust, or
(b) all homosexual men are indiscriminately attracted to all other men.
Supposition (b) is simply false, although it seems to be a common fear among straight men; common sense and your own experience should tell you that (unless you are very strange) you are not indiscriminately attracted to all members of whatever gender you find sexually attractive. This leaves us with supposition (a), which actually has a serious history within biblical studies.
The influential German scholar Gerhard von Rad proposed precisely that the visitors’ angelic beauty inflamed the Sodomites’ homosexual lust. But supposition (a) falters in a couple of ways when considering Sodom sin.
First, it is unreasonable to assume that all the men of Sodom had even seen Lot’s visitors before assembling outside Lot’s door. How then could their lust have been inflamed?
Second, it seems to me rather unlikely that all the men of Sodom would respond to their individual inflammations of sexual lust by banding together for a massive gang rape. I think it rather likely that they might instead fight amongst themselves to see who would “get” the object(s) of their desire.
There are just too many problems, both of logistics within the story world and verisimilitude with the world outside the text, to long sustain any supposition that the men of Sodom, gathered in a mob outside Lot’s door, were motivated by sexual desire. They chose sexual violence as the means of their cruelty, to be sure, but their motive was to assert social dominance over the newcomers. Sodom sin was not homosexuality.
The “sin of Sodom” per Genesis 19 has to do with using sexual cruelty and violence to oppress and demean outsiders. It has nothing to do with homosexuality
in the modern sense of sexual desire oriented toward members of one’s own biological sex, and certainly has nothing to say about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of loving, committed, sexual relationships between members of the same biological sex.” Sodom sin.
As you explore the following Helpful Links, you will discover that the Bible never mentions homosexuals when it tells the story of Lot in Genesis 19.
That is one strong and logical reason, ancient Jews, for almost 1800 years after the destruction of Sodom, did not link Sodom sin to Homosexuality.
The mountains above Biblical Sodom after a thunderstorm.
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