Posts Tagged ‘ homosexuality ’

Queering the Bible, Pt5 – homophobic translations

The fifth part to my mega essay on LGBT issues in the Bible. This one deals with issues of translation – effectively where people had a choice to translate words as *anything* but chose homosexuality to be the big sin.

“Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” -  1 Timothy 9-10

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of G-d? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders” - 1 Corinthians 6:9

These passages are an issue of translation. If in either passage you see the word ‘homosexual’ than you can tell your Bible had been written after 1946, such as the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible, quoted in the footnotes.

Prior to 1946 Edition of the Revised Standard Version, words that were used in place of ‘homosexual’ included; boy prostitutes, effeminate, those who make women of themselves, sissies, the self-indulgent, sodomites, lewd persons, male prostitutes, and the unchaste. All those words were assumed to be translations of the Greek malakoi and arsenokoitai, which until the 16th century was thought to mean ‘masturbators’. Indeed, when early Greek-speaking Christians such as John Chrysostom and Clement of Alexandra the words malakoi and arsenkoitai were never used, nor was the passages in 1 Corinthians 6 or 1 Timothy 1 mentioned.

The problem with translating the word arsenokoitai is that it has not been located in any other material before Pauls use of the word, or at a similar time to Paul’s writings. The only instances of use of arsenokoitai are recorded to be after Pauls use, and dependant on Paul’s usage of the word. About 500 years after Paul’s death, Jerome translates arsenokoitai to be ‘male concubine’, with no distinction to whether the concubines were involved in hetero- or homo-eroticism. There were many common Greek words at the time of Paul, however that more accurately and distinctly references homosexuality, and yet he chooses not to use them.

Malakoi however has more recorded use before and after Paul uses it. Jesus is recorded to use the word Malakoi to describe soft clothes in Matthew 11:8 Traditionally, church tradition has referred to Malakoi as a term to describe moral weakness, in ancient Greek culture it was used to describe effeminacy, and occasionally as a descriptive word for eromenos (the passive partner in a pederastic relationship). It was, however, more often used in a broader sense to describe men who bathed often, presented himself as effeminate to attract women, wore aftershave, shaved, or ate too much.

Because of the complete ambiguity of the words Malakoi and arsenokoitai, it is inaccurate and misleading to translate the terms as meaning as homosexuality.

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Queering the Bible, Pt4 – Romans

4th part of my article exploring what the Bible has to say about LGBT issues.

Most people take Romans 1:26-27 – “Because of this, G-d gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” out of context when viewing homosexuality. It is necessary in this case to read thewhole chapter of Romans 1.

Firstly, let’s provide a bit of context:
At the time of writing, Christianity had begun to grow in Rome and was comprised of both Gentile and Jewish believers. Paul wishes to visit the church, but in the meantime he sends this letter to the church in Rome that lays out Paul’s theology and the great themes of the Gospel. Most would consider the Book of Romans to be Paul’s most complete theological statement.
In the first three chapters Paul makes a strong case for the need of all people, both Jew and Gentile, to establish their faith in Jesus Christ. In Chapter 1 Paul speaks to the Jews of the sin of the Gentiles which they seem to have initially reported to him that resulted in this reply. Chapter 2 – Paul turns highlights the sins of the Jews. Chapter 3 – Paul reaches the conclusion that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24). It then becomes clear that Paul’s intention in writing this letter was to assert the need of all people to experience salvation by the Gospel message and the availability that Gospel to all, Gentile or Jew, male or female, slave or free. It is unlikely that Paul knew that his words would be being viewed by the whole world 2000 years later, and his words take out of context.

In committing idolatry the Gentile people had dishonoured G-d and in response G-d turns them over to dishonour themselves. The people actively chose to engage in one sin, that being idolatry, but from that point on it was G-d who gave them over to other sins as a penalty for the original great offense.

Let us examine the verses 21-31 chronologically:

The Sin: For although they knew G-d they did not honour him as G-d or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal G-d for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)
The Penalty: G-d gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the dishonouring of their bodies with one another. (Romans 1:24)
The Sin: because they exchanged the truth about G-d for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25)
The Penalty: For this reason G-d gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)
The Sin: And since they did not see fit to acknowledge G-d… (Romans 1:28a)
The Penalty: G-d gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of G-d, and insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. (Romans 28b-31)

Paul and his contempories are often seen to view passion as uncontrollable, and therefore negative. In his eyes, it was always dishonourable. Paul saw idolatry as the cause of homo-eroticism, not sexual orientation or human choice.
This passage does not speak of gay, lesbians and bisexuals within our culture, but only to the culture of Gentile idolaters; as it similarly does not address homo-eroticism within the Jewish community. The Romans letter is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, due to the implication that idolatry causes homosexuality. Most Christian LGB people today will have never practiced idolatry, and so this letter is not in reference to them.

If you don’t accept the above, perhaps viewing Romans 1.24 in the same light as Leviticus 18.22 might be helpful.

For the above part of this page, I have blatantly stole some info from this article. You may find this other article interesting, as it deals with the Romans letter in greater depth.

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Queering the Bible, Pt 2. – Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19

Part 2 of an article that I wrote a while back, while I was the LGBT Officer at Bradford Uni, and had a lot of students come to me who felt that it was difficult to reconcile their sexuality or gender identity with their Christianity. I’m not a theologian, but I did a bit of research to bring this together.

This passage is often used to criticise homosexuality. It has been so often used that ‘Sodomite’ and ‘Sod’ has become an insult to throw at gay, lesbian, bisexuals and the wider queer community. ‘Sodomy’ was refered to in UK law as the act of anal sex, associated with gay males. But is Genesis 19 really a condemnation of homosexuality?

The actual sins of Sodom are provided throughout the Bible;

  • The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah include the making of false idols, Deuteronomy 29:23-26 and Deuteronomy 32:32-38 23
  • Making false sacrifice, murder, greed and rebellion against G-d, Isaiah 1:9-23
  • Arrogance and Pride, Isaiah 3:8-9

Jude 1:7 is often used as to argue that the sin of Sodom and Gommorah is homosexuality – “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

The fornication and ‘strange flesh’ referred to here could either a condemnation of promiscuous adultery, as condemned in Jeremiah 23:14 or, more likely, a reference to the fact that the visitors were angels of G-d and their flesh was literally ‘strange’, coming from the Greek heteras which, ironically, is the source of the word heterosexual. The phrase more accurately translates as ‘other flesh’.

The main sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality. In Gen 19, Lot, and immigrant to the city of Sodom, welcomes two strangers through the walls of the city and into his house. The townspeople are suspicious of Lot and the two strangers, them all being outsiders. All the men of the town gather outside Lot’s house demanding to have sex with the men. Now, let’s make this clear, not all the men of Sodom were gay, the presence of women and children in the city tells us that. The fact that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the men was nothing to do with sexual enjoyment, but about their assertion of power. They intended to let the strangers know who were in charge by gang-raping them. Modern psychology tells us that the main reasons for rape are through anger and to assert power. Sodom was destroyed because the townspeople were violently inhospitable to the visitors. To put it in context, because in Biblical times, towns and cities were separated by vast swathes of harsh desert, hospitality was more than just good manners, it was about saving lives. This view is backed up by Jesus’ later quotes on Sodom and Gomorrah, in Matthew 10:13-15
and Matthew 11:20-24.

Other references in the Bible to Sodom and Gomorrah can be found here: Jeremiah 49:16-18;50:2-40Lamentations 4:3-6Ezekiel 16:49-50Amos 4:1-11Zephaniah 2:8, and 2 Peter 2:6.

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Queering the Bible Pt1

Out of the thousands of passages in the Bible, only 5 or 6 are traditionally said to address homosexuality, and a handful more on trans issues. Yet, from the amount of vitriol that LGBT people receive from some reactionary Christian groups, you would imagine the entire book is condemning them. This is an article that I wrote a while back, while I was the LGBT Officer at Bradford Uni, and had a lot of students come to me who felt that it was difficult to reconcile their sexuality or gender identity with their Christianity. I’m not a theologian, but I did a bit of research to bring this together. I’ve split it up into a few posts, because otherwise it would just be epically long. This is part 1 – exploring Genesis 1:27-28.

1. “So G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d he created them; male and female he created them. G-d blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” – Genesis 1:27-28

The Creation story of Genesis is used to criticise homosexuality as it is argued that G-d created them Eve from Adam’s rib to be his helpmate, the woman being complimentary to the man, and thus G-d made woman for man, man for woman, and it is then argued that same-sex relationships are in violation of this divine order. This argument can be simplified to ‘G-d made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’

The authors of Genesis were attempting to answer the question of how we were created, and it must have seen obvious then as it is now that the only plausible answer is from the sexual union of a man and woman. The Creation story does not pretend to give judgement on any other form of relationship; it does not mention friendship, or the possibility of remaining celibate and single, and we do not condemn friendship or singleness. Simply because it does not mention homosexuality, does not mean that it is condemned.

Another argument is that G-d gave Adam and Eve the instruction to ‘go forth and multiply’ – to “be fruitful and increase in number”. Critics argue that because people in a same-sex relationship, they cannot procreate naturally and are because of that condemned.

This passage is all about recognising that heterosexual coupling is normative in most societies and leads to procreation; it does not expressively condemn same-sex relationships. The argument against homosexuality due to lack of procreation falls apart when we examine heterosexual marriages which do not lead to procreation, that are not condemned also. The lack of children doesn’t invalid these relationships nor does it devalue them. Neither should it for same-sex couples.

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