Is the Bible Ant-Gay?

In a running series on the question in the Guardian, Theo Hobson has a useful response:

Homosexuality is mysterious: we do not really know what it is. It is politically correct to see it as an innate genetic thing like skin colour, but this is untenable. For it is possible for a heterosexual to experience homosexual desire, or to have an active homosexual phase. Also, it is clear enough that nurture plays a huge role in the formation of sexuality, and that our very concept of homosexuality is culturally determined.

Our idea of homosexuality is a rather recent invention. In our narrative, a young adult discovers that he or she is different, and announces his or her commitment to this different identity. Coming out is a bit like a pledge: this is not a phase, but who I am; I commit myself to this identity.

Every previous culture to our own would have seen it as odd, this insistence that homosexuality is a fixed identity, which one discovers within one’s soul, and sticks to. To the ancient Greek, homosexuality was something you might do for a while, like playing football, or seeing a shrink. This was a freer idea of sexuality. We like to think we are the most liberated imaginable culture, but actually our narrative of homosexuality suggests otherwise: we demand that homosexuality is penned in by this idea of either-or identity. We have opted to tolerate “identity homosexuality” instead of temporary homosexuality and bisexuality, which are potentially more threatening to the dominant sexual order (the ‘”straightus-quo”?).

Because this development is so recent, it makes little sense to say that ancient Israelite culture was “anti-gay”. It also makes little sense to say that ancient Greek culture was gay-friendly. For neither culture shared our idea of what homosexuality is. In fact these ancient cultures agreed more with each other than either does with us. For both saw homosexuality as a form of behaviour rather than an innate identity. To the ancient Jew, it was a disgustingly self-indulgent bit of behaviour, inextricable from hedonistic promiscuity, and a befouling of the sacred bond of marriage. To the Greek citizen, it was no big deal; just a facet of (male) human desire.

So the real question is: how should Christians respond to the fact that the Bible condemns homosexual behaviour? Is it legitimate simply to reassert this condemnation, to say that it still stands? No, for two reasons. First, the meaning of homosexuality has changed. In the new narrative of homosexuality, a gay person is just as inclined to seek stable monogamy as a straight person. The Bible’s assumption that gay sex is a form of indulgence unrelated to marriage can no longer be shared.

Secondly, Christians are not committed to following the rules laid down in the Bible. They reject the need for circumcision and food laws. And all moral laws. St Paul said that we have to break the link between God’s will and religious laws. We have to make up morality as we go, putting love and freedom first. Ah, but didn’t St Paul clearly condemn gay sex? Yes, but this is because he shared the general biblical view, that it was inextricable from hedonism. Christians who use Paul to condemn homosexuality have failed to grasp Paul’s key message: that holy rules are dead.

So the answer to this question has two parts. Yes, the Bible condemns homosexual behaviour, as a threat to moral order. But the New Testament condemns something else as well: holy moralism. It announces an anti-legalistic revolution. It tells us we have to keep our moral thinking mobile, open-ended. The Bible sows the seed of the deconstruction of its own sexual moralism.

From the Guardian

16 Responses to “Is the Bible Ant-Gay?”

  1. Mark from PA Says:

    Another excellent article.

  2. hinbww Says:

    Here Jesus refers to “eunuchs who have been so from birth.” This terminology (“born eunuchs”) was used in the ancient world to refer to homosexual men. Jesus indicates that being a “born eunuch” is a gift from God.
    Matthew 19:10-12

    four gay couples in the Bible are:
    Ruth and Naomi
    David and Jonathan
    Daniel and Ashpenaz
    A Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his slave but it was not his slave it was his gay lover
    and Jesus healed him.So why is it that God and Jesus love gays but so called Christians don’t.
    I am a retired Baptist Pastor and I am gay.

    It is therefore very clear that eunuchs, a population in which God Himself includes homosexuals, have a place in heaven, and are given “a name better than sons and daughters”. It gets no better than that!

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      I agree completely about the significance of eunuchs, the centurion, and that the general tone of the bible is gay-friendly. Personally, I’m wary of treating rRuth & Naomi as “gay”: I’m not sure there is anything more in that then a close family relationship.

      I was not previously aware of Daniel & Ashpenaz as a model. I’ll explore further- thanks for the contribution.

      • hinbww Says:

        Ruth & Naomi were married

      • Terence@queerchurch Says:

        I’m fascinated and would love to know more . That’s an observation I’ve not seen in other gay interpretations of Scripture. Do you have a reference for that statement?

      • hinbww Says:

        Ruth and Naomi

        Ruth 1:16-17 and 2:10-11 describe their close friendship Perhaps the best known passage from this book is Ruth 1:16-17 which is often read out during opposite-sex and same-sex marriage and union ceremonies:

        “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (NIV)

        Ruth 1:14, referring to the relationship between Ruth and Naomi, mentions that “Ruth clave onto her.” (KJV) The Hebrew word translated here as “clave” is identical to that used in the description of a heterosexual marriage in Genesis 2:24: ” Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (KJV)
        This book was probably included in the Hebrew Scriptures because King David was one of the descendents of Ruth. Although this same-sex friendship appears to have been very close, there is no proof that it was a sexually active relationship.

      • hinbww Says:

        Daniel and Ashpenaz

        Daniel 1:9 refers to Ashpenaz, the chief of the court officials of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon.

        Various English translations differ greatly:
        bullet “Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel” (NIV)
        bullet “Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (KJV)
        bullet “Now God made Daniel to find favor, compassion and loving-kindness with the chief of the eunuchs” (Amplified Bible)
        bullet “Now, as it happens, God had given the superintendent a special appreciation for Daniel and sympathy for his predicament” (Living Bible)
        bullet “Then God granted Daniel favor and sympathy from the chief of the eunuchs” (Modern Language)
        bullet “Though God had given Daniel the favor and sympathy of the chief chamberlain…” (New American Bible)
        bullet “God made Ashpenaz want to be kind and merciful to Daniel” (New Century Version)
        bullet “And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Revised Standard Version)
        bullet “God caused the master to look on Daniel with kindness and goodwill” (Revised English Version)

        bullet Religious conservatives generally view the friendship of Daniel and Ashpenaz as totally non-sexual. It is inconceivable that God would allow a famous prophet of Israel to be a homosexual.
        bullet Some religious liberals detect the possibility of a homosexual relationship here. The Hebrew words which describe the relationship between Daniel and Ashpenaz are chesed v’rachamim The most common translation of chesed is “mercy”. V’rachamim is in a plural form which is used to emphasize its relative importance. It has multiple meanings: “mercy” and “physical love”. It is unreasonable that the original Hebrew would read that Ashpenaz “showed mercy and mercy.” A more reasonable translation would thus be that Ashpenaz showed mercy and engaged in physical love” with Daniel. Of course, this would be unacceptable to later translators, so they substitute more innocuous terms. The KJV reference to “tender love” would appear to be the closest to the truth. One might question whether Daniel and Ashpenaz could sexually consummate their relationship. They were both eunuchs. Apparently, when males are castrated after puberty, they still retain sexual drive. It is interesting to note that no other romantic interest or sexual partner of Daniel was mentioned elsewhere in the Bible

      • Terence@queerchurch Says:

        Thanks again. This elaboration of Daniel also expands my previous familiarity with the passage. I was aware of Daniel as eunuch, and so as a sexual outsider, but had not previously seen (or more accurately, digested) the possble physical connection with Ashpenaz

  3. Phillip Clark Says:

    This was an interesting piece. But it raised a little troubling questions. When the author talks about doing a way with the Bible’s concept of “moralism” does this mean also disgarding any kind of imperative for monogamy or any type of commitment within relationships?

    I’m all for recognizing the morality of homosexuality, but I think using it to debase and dilute the substance of committed relationships is a dangerous road to chose as a defense of gay rights, particularly within Christianity.

    This was at least my interpretation from the article… =/

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      No, Phillip, I don’t read it that way at all. I think he is just calling for a more rational and balanced use of Scripture in forming moral judgements. I don’t see anything in there to suggest a lack of support for committed relationships.

  4. hinbww Says:

    You are welcome, if you need anything let me know, signed a retired Ordained Baptist Minister.

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      I really value your input. I started out writing specifically for queer Catholics, but we can learn so much from each other. This is especially trues of Scripture, which we Catholics tend under -use. Speaking for myself, this is an area I want to improve on. To have contributions from a gay Baptist minister to broaden our perspective here, is a real privilege. Please feel free to comment (or disagree) as often and as freely as you wish.

  5. hinbww Says:

    It does not make any differents what church a person goes to the only thing that matters is that you love Our Lord Jesus Christ.

  6. Mark from PA Says:

    I am familiar with the stories of David and Jonathan and Jesus’ healing of the centurian’s pais. I am not as familiar with the book of Daniel so this is very informative to me. Of course, I know well the story of Ruth and Naomi and have read it many times. I see the story of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law who love each other very much. I don’t see this as a sexual relationship. I see how Naomi loves Ruth as a daughter and Ruth loves Naomi as her mother. It is a very beautiful story.

  7. hinbww Says:

    Back in biblical days when one would clave them selves they were married. Like Ruth did with Naoni.

  8. hinbww Says:

    If you want to see what the Bible says check this out. I started doing what this young man did and saved me a lot of time and money.
    Thesis: Eunuchs are Gay Men
    (with a listing of secondary sources)
    by Faris Malik
    check it out. Also go into Amazon,com and get the book (The Children are Free) it is also a great book to read.

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