Does Romans 1:26 condemn lesbians?
Lesbos Harbor on the
Greek island of Lesbos
No, Romans 1:26 does NOT condemn lesbians. Some anti-gay Christians believe Paul is condemning lesbian sexuality because of Romans 1:26.
"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
Anti-gay Christians arrive at their false conclusion because of other false beliefs they hold. For example, they believe that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 condemn both gay male and lesbian female relationships even though females/lesbians are not mentioned in those verses.
Ancient Jews did NOT understand Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as prohibitions of lesbianism.
Anti-gay Christians assume that since Paul was brought up in the Jewish faith, he must have interpreted Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 the same way anti-gay Christians interpret them today, as universal proscriptions of all homosexual behavior, including lesbian behavior.
So when they get to Romans 1:26, they interpret "against nature"
to mean lesbianism and nothing but lesbianism. According to their opinion, Paul couldn't possibly have been referring to any of the against nature behaviors listed on this page.
Scripture only settles matters
about which it speaks plainly.
The anti-gay interpretation of Romans 1:26 was not the view of many Greek-speaking Christians in the first three centuries of the early church. The anti-gay interpretation does not fit the rest of scripture since lesbians are NEVER
condemned in the Old Testament or anyplace in the New Testament. Isn't that interesting?
Here's a fascinating look at the meaning of Romans 1:26 from Jeramy's helpful website.
"While Romans 1:18-32 is the primary text used from the New Testament by those people who condemn homosexuality, that interpretation has not always been the interpretation of this passage.
For example, verse 26, which is the only verse in Scripture which is often interpreted today to refer to lesbian sexuality, is often used to round out the beliefs of those who condemn all homosexuality as sin, since all of the other alleged condemnations of homosexuality specifically refer to male-male behavior, linguistically excluding female-female behavior.
Looking back at early interpreters of this verse, while some have believed that this verse referred to lesbians (John Chrysostom), many key church leaders have not held this view, such as Clement of Alexandria and Saint Augustine, who believed this to be anal or oral sex between heterosexuals (Brooten, 1985; Miller, 1995).
*** One early Christian writer, Anastasios, clearly dismisses the view that Paul was referring to lesbianism in his comments on Romans 1:26:
Clearly they (the females referred to in Romans 1:26) do not go into one another, but rather offer themselves to the men. (Brooten, 1996, p. 337n)
*** Augustine continues this line of thought (fairly explicitly):
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." quoting Romans 1:26 (Marriage and Desire, 20.35)"
There is however, ONE female sexual practice which IS condemned in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 23:17-18, which is linked to Gentile idolatry and which perfectly fits Paul’s "against nature" argument.
That sexual practice is female shrine prostitution, using sex to worship Ashtoreth,
the fertility goddess consort of the male fire-god Molech.Qedesha-female shrine prostitutes,
are mentioned in Genesis 38:21-22, Deuteronomy 23:17, and Hosea 4:14. It better fits the context of Paul's argument in Romans 1:26 (idolatry) to understand that Paul is referring to the illicit sexual practice of female shrine prostitutes who serviced men than that, suddenly and unaccountably, with no Biblical basis from the Old Testament, Paul injects into his teaching against idolatry, a one verse condemnation of lesbians, (which is unrelated to idolatry) and which is without any basis in the Old Testament.
Helpful LinksDoes Romans 1:26-27 condemn homosexuals?Are lesbians treated the same as gays in the Bible?Click here to return to Gay Christian FAQ Page.We've answered the question: Does Romans 1:26 condemn lesbians? Click here to return to Gay Christian 101 Home Page.