Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Rowan Williams

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)We’re continuing to consider a series of articles making arguments in favor of Christian gay marriage. The next Christian thinker we take up is Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury: Rowan Williams’ four essentials for being ‘Christian’ and “The Body’s Grace”.

In the first article, Williams says,

Archbishops don’t decide doctrine, and in a church where the majority holds a more traditional view, an archbishop has to respect that. I still see a strong case for a less restrictive approach, on the grounds that what the Bible condemns isn’t necessarily what we today recognize as same-sex partnership. 

This is hardly new theological ground. The argument made is that the homosexual relationships Paul would have known were abusive — pederastic, prostitution, or idolatrous — and so Paul was condemning homosexuality of the type he knew. As a First Century man, he would have been unfamiliar with loving, faithful homosexual relationships comparable to healthy heterosexual marriages.

This view has been contradicted by N. T. Wright, who is both a world-class theologian and historian, as well as Ron Sider. I’ve quoted Wright a number of times already on this point, and so let’s hear what Sider has to say,

First, Paul never argues that homosexual practice is wrong because it is pederastic or oppressive or wrong for a male to play the role of a woman. He simply says, in agreement with the unanimous Jewish tradition, that it is wrong. And second, there are in fact examples in ancient literature of long term (even life-long) homosexual partnerships. A number of ancient figures, including Plato’s Aristophanes in the Symposium,also talk about a life-long same-sex orientation.

Tragedy, Tradition & Opportunity in the Homosexuality Debate,” Christianity Today.

We dug into the actual Greek texts on which Wright and Sider rely back in Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 8 (The hermeneutics of Eden; Plato on homosexuality).

This argument depends on our willingness to assume ourselves to be more knowledgeable about homosexuality than Paul and Jesus. In fact, the ancients were very familiar with homosexuality in all its forms. Why wouldn’t they be when, as is so often argued today, it’s not a choice? If it’s not a choice and is, in fact, a part of human nature, then it was an observable part of human nature in 50 AD and long earlier — and the Jews and Greeks were astute observers of human nature.

The Body’s Grace

The Body’s Grace” is an essay that’s caught the imagination of pro-Christian gay marriage advocates. It’s considered something of a watershed argument, and so we should consider it carefully and prayerfully. Read the entire essay, not just my excerpts. It’s not long. And realize that this is considered by many the epitome of argumentation in favor of same-sex marriage.

Grace, for the Christian believer, is a transformation that depends in large part on knowing yourself to be seen in a certain way: as significant, as wanted.

The whole story of creation, incarnation and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ’s body tells us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God’s giving that God’s self makes in the life of the trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God.

The life of the Christian community has as its rationale – if not invariably its practical reality – the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as the occasion of joy.

This is, of course, sort of true. And it’s sort of false. I mean, where do the scriptures actually say that the church is all about making sure people “see themselves as desired, the occasion of joy”? Well, they just don’t. But it’s certainly true that God desires to be in relationship with everyone — through grace and on God’s terms. And it’s certainly true that everyone who is a member of the church should feel welcome and wanted as part of the Christian community. But the Christian community doesn’t exist to validate the feelings of everyone for any reason. There are boundaries.

So my desire, if it is going to be sustained and developed, must itself be perceived; and, if it is to develop as it naturally tends to, it must be perceived as desirable by the other – that is my arousal and desire must become the cause of someone else’s desire (there is an echo here of St Augustine’s remarkable idea that what love loves is loving, but that’s another story).

Um, okay … so sex should be mutually gratifying. And therefore?

Decisions about sexual lifestyle, the ability to identify certain patterns as sterile, undeveloped or even corrupt, are, in this light, decisions about what we want our bodily life to say, how our bodies are to be brought in to the whole project of “making human sense” for ourselves and each other.

To be able to make such decisions is important: a conventional (heterosexual) morality simply absolves us from the difficulties we might meet in doing so. The question of human meaning is not raised, we are not helped to see what part sexuality plays in our learning to be human with one another, to enter the body’s grace, because all we need to know is that sexual activity is licensed in one context and in no other.

So I need to be free of conventional Christian restrictions so that I’m freed to discover for myself what is right and wrong regarding sex? God daring to impose limitations somehow keeps us from thinking for ourselves? And … what? … we’re wiser than God? I’m really not following this.

Evidently, Williams’ does not want us to license sexual activity in heterosexual marriage and no other context. Rather, sex should be allowed anywhere that it’s not “sterile, undeveloped or even corrupt.” And so homosexual marriage is not sterile? In fact, Williams seems to condone one-night stands and other forms of emotionally sterile sex so long as two consenting adults are the participants.

We should not do it in order to create a wholly impersonal and enforceable “bond”; if we do, we risk turning blessing into curse, grace into law, art into rule-keeping. In other words, I believe that the promise of faithfulness, the giving of unlimited time to each other, remains central for understanding the full “resourcefulness” and grace of sexual union.

I simply don’t think we’d grasp all that was involved in the mutual transformation of sexually linked persons without the reality of unconditional public commitments: more perilous, more demanding, more promising.

Yet the realities of our experience in looking for such possibilities suggest pretty clearly that an absolute declaration that every sexual partnership must conform to the pattern of commitment or else have the nature of sin and nothing else is unreal and silly.

So sexual partnerships need to be blessed by the church in a public way, but we should not limit such partnerships to heterosexual unions because, what? a limitation that would prevent homosexual unions would be “unreal and silly”? Why? Over 2,000 years of Jewish and Christian teaching is to be dismissed with a declaration that the church has been “silly”? How condescending to the church that is.

And does this new standard of avoiding the unreal and silly refer solely to two-person unions of adults? Or where do we draw the line, if at all?

In one breath, he encourages the giving of unlimited time to our sex partner, but commitment to a single partner is “unreal and silly.”

Much more damage is done to this by the insistence on a fantasy version of heterosexual marriage as the solitary ideal, when the facts of the situation are that an enormous number of “sanctioned” unions are a framework for violence and human destructiveness on a disturbing scale: sexual union is not delivered from moral danger and ambiguity by satisfying a formal socio-religious criterion.

Many heterosexual unions fail. That’s true. Therefore, because marriage is no guaranty of a truly holy matrimony, we ought to broaden our standards? Where’s the logic in that? And just how broad should our standards be? So far, I see no limits at all.

Wouldn’t it make better sense to push for unions that are in fact free from violence and destructiveness? Don’t the facts argue for insisting on stricter standards for marriage rather than looser? If violence in marriage is bad, and it really is, then surely the church’s response should be to work against the violence rather than to liberalize the standards for whose marriages may receive church approval — inevitably leading to greater violence. It’s a total non sequitur.

Man fears and subdues woman; and – the, argument continues – this licenses and grounds a whole range of processes that are about the control of the strange: “nature,” the foreigner, the unknowable future.

Only someone who doesn’t understand men would make such an absurd argument. Men do not marry women in order to cope with their fear of women. Seriously? This is not theology or science or even science-ish. It’s extreme, radical feminism with no basis in fact.

In fact, of course, in a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.

I suspect that a fuller exploration of the sexual metaphors of the Bible will have more to teach us about a theology and ethics of sexual desire than will the flat citation of isolated texts; and I hope other theologians will find this worth following up more fully than I can do here.

A theology of the body’s grace which can do justice to the experience, the pain and the variety, of concrete sexual discovery is not, I believe, a marginal eccentricity in the doctrinal spectrum.

In short, if I’m following his logic — and it’s no easy task — if we approve contraception and hence sex without the prospect of children, then we may only absolutely condemn same-sex relationships based on “a number of very ambiguous texts” or a theory on the natural complementarity of men and women — natural law.

Notice Williams use of “fundamentalist” as the ultimate put down. Any effort by the church to judge or impose moral standards is — horror upon horrors! — fundamentalist — the worst possible insult. Of course, Williams offers no evidence or argument for his claim, relying purely on name calling.

Williams has also not bothered to demonstrate that the texts are ambiguous or isolated or that Paul’s natural law argument in Romans 1 is meaningless. This is not serious theological discourse.

Thus, Williams evidently concludes, grace is about acceptance, and because gay marriages need sanctification, public recognition, and acceptance, then grace should be extended to include homosexual marriages.

But there is no limit to the breadth of this logic. If the scriptures create no limit, then any consensual sexual relationship would easily fit within William’s logic, because the logic of grace for all who want grace has no bounds. In fact, Williams approves of one-night stands in which two persons use each other’s bodies for gratification without any emotional bond. This is part of the “hilarity” of sex.

On the other hand, a serious review of the scriptures demonstrates that God in fact places quite a few limits on who receives and doesn’t receive grace. God doesn’t extend grace to all for whom it might be emotionally helpful. Rather, grace is limited to those willing to meet God on God’s terms.

(Act 17:30-31 ESV)  30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” 

“Repent” never means “continue to live as you’ve always lived.” God is demanding change — in order to receive grace.

In short, Williams’ essay has little to do with investigating the scriptures and much more to do with kind of an academic, feminist, humanist pop psychology of sexuality. I mean, there’s not a single scientific study of human sexuality cited — just novels, poems, short stories, and wishful thinking in preference to scripture or even science. It’s pure subjectivism.

The readers would benefit from reading this thoughtful review of Williams’ article by John P. Richardson, who concludes,

We certainly cannot say that Williams wrote “The Body’s Grace” to mislead the Church. Nevertheless, its conclusions are misleading and if, as Williams himself admits, the arguments are not entirely valid, it is time that this is recognised more widely and more publicly.

I also found helpful this review in a series of four articles by Ken Smith:

Smith concludes,

Williams’ defense of homosexuality and extramarital sex makes some sense if you don’t believe that God has spoken in any specific or significant way through Scripture. He says repeatedly that we must deal with “the realities of our experience” and must “[recognize] the facts of a lot of people’s experience”, and it would be hard to deny this. But as Christians, we must also reflect on what Christians of all ages have called the Word of God: certainly we have no choice but to understand Scripture in light of our experience, but we must also take care to interpret our experience in light of Scripture. If Williams claims to speak as a representative of the Church, it’s disturbing to see the carelessness with which he treats the very revelation of God on which the Church claims to be founded.


Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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86 Responses to Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Rowan Williams

  1. Gary says:

    We may not be more knowledgeable about homosexuality than Jesus but Jesus never mentioned homosexuality so I’m not sure what that means. But we most certainly are more knowledgeable about homosexuality than was Paul. We’re more knowledgeable today about homosexuality than we were forty years ago so we’re without question more knowledgeable about homosexuality than was a man who lived 2,000 years ago. Paul’s writings in Scripture are inspired and that’s all that’s relevant for us today regarding Paul and homosexuality. The opinions and biases of Paul the man may be of interest today but they are not binding on us beyond the words he wrote in Scripture. Paul was not omniscient. He was a first century Jew.

  2. Gary says:

    Homosexual practice in the first century Roman Empire was not based on Greek thought. N.T. Wright has made a huge mistake in writing on homosexuality and Christianity as if first century Christians were living in the ancient Greek world. They were not and they especially were not in Rome and Corinth where Paul addressed letters to the Christians there. For Rome that should go without saying but Wright was not aware apparently of the Argive Petition regarding Corinth that portrays it as a distinctly Roman city despite its location in Greece. The Argive Petition dates to the same decade as 1 Corinthians. We now know that Corinth’s neighboring (culturally) Greek cities regarded Corinth as a foreign Roman city in their midst.

    Consequently most of what Wright has written on this subject is irrelevant to the all-important Romans and 1 Corinthians passages on homosexuality. I’ve pointed this out before Jay and your response has been that first century Romans would have been aware of Greek thought of prior centuries. That hardly means that Romans shared the perspective of ancient Greek writers. I’m fairly well read in 19th century British literature but I don’t think it has a significant role in my worldview and beliefs today any more than my fondness for British shows today like Downton Abbey and Doc Martin.

    N.T. Wright is a great Christian leader in my view. I was thrilled to meet him a number of years ago. He has contributed a great deal to NT studies. But he is not a reliable source on the subject of the NT and homosexuality. In his defense many of his writings may predate the discovery of the Argive Petition about a decade ago. Even his writings since, however, do not mention it I’m pretty sure. But no analysis of first century Christianity and homosexuality is on track relying almost exclusively on Greek thought.

  3. Gary says:

    Jay, you are an ardent follower of N.T. Wright and I can’t fault you on that. Homosexuality aside, so am I. But if you’re going to follow his position on homosexual love will you also follow him in not making it a test of Christian fellowship? As far as I know he is still an Anglican. From previous comments of his I don’t think he’s particularly a fan of Rome so I don’t see him converting as many conservative Anglicans have done. The Church of England, which he has served as a bishop, now accepts even gay clergy in committed sexual relationships. Will you also extend Christian fellowship to gay Christians in committed sexual relationships?

  4. John says:

    While the debates regarding Gay Marriage will continue for quite some time, most will fall silent as did the debates over divorce and remarriage, as spiritual Gay individuals and couples who desire a church home, many with the denomination in which they grew up, begin attending worship services. After all, if we take simply the words of Jesus regarding divorce and remarriage, the legalists are technically correct. However, the over all compassion of Jesus moves us to look beyond the words and reasons for them at that time. Many conservatives like to tell themselves that this will never happen; but who would have guessed we would have witnessed what we have seen so far?

    Granted, this will take place mostly in urban congregations where differences are more tolerated. But change has a way of burning through fire walls.

  5. Monty says:

    Maybe Paul didn’t know much about Bestiality, incest, or pedophilia, either. He could take on the enlightened on Mars Hill, and go toe to toe with them, but he just wasn’t “with it”, concerning homosexual love. Utterly strange thought, IMHO.

  6. Dwight says:

    Maybe John is correct about homosexuality. Then soon we will be allowing those that are spiritual and practice committed and loving bestiality, incest and pedophilia into the worship services due to compassion. I can’t think of a scriptures against these specific things in the New Testament and as has been pointed out the Old Testament isn’t enough to condemn them. And then maybe even those who sleep with their father’s wife. I will be worshipping from my home at that point.

  7. Gary says:

    Monty and Dwight, according to the Roman Catholic view of what’s unnatural sexually, all non-reproductive sexual acts that result in ejaculation are in the same category. So for the billion or so Roman Catholics in the world not only homosexuality and bestiality but also masturbation and heterosexual oral sex between a husband and wife are all unnatural and forbidden. I assume you don’t agree. I assume you feel free to disregard their restrictions at least in your beliefs regarding what is permissible for Christians today. (If my assumptions are wrong feel free to correct me.) Does your not agreeing with the doctrine of human sexuality of a billion Catholics mean that you might as well endorse bestiality, incest and paedophilia? I’m sure it doesn’t but why not? When you answer that question you’ll understand that supporting marriage equality has nothing to do with bestiality, incest and paedophilia. I remember one CoC conservative who a decade or so ago wrote fervently that Baptists who refuse to believe that baptism is essential for salvation might as well endorse homosexuality. His logic was sadly lacking but no more so than in your arguments.

  8. Dwight says:

    Gary, So I take it you agree with bestiality and incest? If you do then at least are consistant, but if not, then you are self-justifying your particular acceptance on one thing from other like sins.
    The fact that the Catholic church believes in many things has nothing to do with scripture which is the only guide. God, not man, decides what is sinful. And God is not vague. God has told us what is sinful in the Old Testament and in the New Testament and His moral laws have never changed.
    And just because the Catholic church argues that some things are sinful, doesn’t make it not sinful, if the scripture it self states that it is sinful. You would turn this around to say that if the Catholic church beleives murder or lying is sinful, then it must not be, but the scriptures do state that murder and lying are sinful. And just because some people make accusations of sin, doesn’t mean that it is sin, unless it can be found in the scriptures as sinful. Many people believe that drinking is sinful, but only drunkenness is condemned. Many people do not make it sinful, only scripture does. The scruiptures are consistant in regards to homosexuality, bestiality, incest and pedofilia as being sinful.
    This is my last conversation on this topic with you, because you seek to deny scripture and argue from man’s viewpoint. If Paul cannot be trusted on homosexuality, then Paul cannot be trusted at all. You have deleted most of the NT scriptures. Actually homosexuality hasn’t changed at all, only public recent perception by a small but growing percentage of the population, but it is still condemned in the OT and NT scriptures. Adultury has taken a similar path and soon polygamy and other things will follow.

  9. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Gary wrote, “We may not be more knowledgeable about homosexuality than Jesus but Jesus never mentioned homosexuality so I’m not sure what that means. But we most certainly are more knowledgeable about homosexuality than was Paul.”

    I have a quibble here, Gary. Jesus, in his pre-Kenosis existence as the Word, was the very author of the Old Testament, and the OT does have something to say about homosexuality…and it is thoroughly condemned. Also, the degree to which we are more or less knowledgable than Paul about homosexuality is wholly irrelevant. No one living today is miraculously endowed with the Holy Spirit as was Paul in the first century, and Paul’s writings, inspired by God, provide the final Word on the matter. All the combined knowledge about homosexuality in the world today utterly fails to surpass the authority of scripture. I appreciate your desire to search the text and seek authority for homosexual activity, but there is less here than meets the eye.

  10. Gary says:

    Kevin, Genesis 2:18 authorizes the marriage of any two people who can be suitable and appropriate helps or life companions for each other. This principle precedes heterosexual marriage. For heterosexual Adam his suitable and appropriate life companion was a woman. For gays and lesbians it is necessarily a person of the same sex. No further biblical authority for same-sex marriage is needed.

  11. Gary says:

    Kevin, like so many before you, you appeal to the Law of Moses as being applicable today. Please answer this question then: Is the abomination of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 still applicable today? If not why not?

  12. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Actually, I neither appealed to the Law of Moses nor did I state that the Law of Moses is applicable today.

    You stated that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality; I demonstrated that this statement is not quite accurate, given the fact that the OT scriptures were subject to His providence, causation, and approval.

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    You are mixing apples and oranges. First, some dioceses of the Anglican communion accept gay couples who are married. Some do not. The majority do not. The official position of the Anglican communion is stated in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference: Obviously, some bishops and dioceses have taken contrary positions, but they remain a minority position.

    Wright served on the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which considered whether fellowship should be broken over a doctrinal disagreement on gay marriage. That is, should a diocese (a part of the Anglican communion headed by a bishop–but it’s really much more complicated) that considers homosexual activity sinful even within a state-recognized marriage, break fellowship with a diocese that does not consider such activity sinful — as decided by the diocesan bishop and other bodies within the Episcopalian system.

    The Lambeth Conference concluded that this issue should not break inter-diocesan fellowship. That is not the same thing as concluding that all dioceses should treat married gay couples as acceptable members, not subject to church discipline. In fact, the conclusion was that homosexual activity is contrary to the scriptures.

    Hence, most Anglican community dioceses consider gay sex wrong in all forms, but so far, most have not broken fellowship with those dioceses that disagree. It is, after all, a worldwide communion and the Southern dioceses — African and Latin American — are much more conservative than many of their American and European sister dioceses.

    From a Church of Christ perspective, I suppose the question devolves to whether a given church should be in fellowship with another church (Church of Christ or not) that accepts married gay couples as not sinful. More broadly stated, must church A agree with all moral positions of church B to treat church B as a sister church? And Lambeth concluded no, and I think most people would agree — at least in the abstract.

    Back to the CoC perspective. If church A refuses to allow a couple to join because of their previous marriage, divorce, and remarriage, believing the couple to be living in an adulterous relationship, and if that couple then joins CoC B, which does not consider their relationship sinful, in most case, church A does not break fellowship with church B (not that it’s never happened), but that doesn’t mean that church A will welcome the couple as members. In fact, they will not.

    The Bible doesn’t give clear guidance because the scriptures assume a single church, single congregation, and single eldership in a given city. Couples could not church shop except by leaving town — which was harder to do then than now.

    The practical problem is that (a) we are plainly required by scripture to be united with other congregations, (b) if we have to approve every doctrinal position taken by the church down the road, there will be zero unity, even within the Churches of Christ, much less the larger church-universal, and (c) even though this is a moral question that seems very clear to me, the same is true of Churches of Christ more conservative than my church regarding MDR, and yet I expect them to exercise their own discipline and not concern themselves with disciplinary issues in my own church. Hence, “do unto others” tells me not to be too busy second guessing the decisions of other congregations. I’m sure in a diocesan organization, similar logic prevails at the diocesan level.

    So if another congregation decides to accept gay couples, that is their decision to make. I will disagree and may express my disagreement. But it’s not a per se fellowship issue.

    On the other hand (and this is where it gets really hard),

    (1Jo 4:6 ESV) 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    If a church decides to take a position in outright rebellion against apostolic authority (not a different interpretation but actually refusing to submit to apostolic authority), then they are “not from God” according to this passage. And a lot of the argumentation over gay marriage between Christians is about whether to honor the biblical text, not what the biblical text means. And rebellion against the known, admitted word of God may well remove someone or some congregation or even some bishop from the church-universal. Merely hanging a cross around your neck and using a biblical vocabulary does not save. Submission to the commands of God is essential.

    Again, honest, prayerful, faithful disagreement over the meaning of the text is one thing — and a part of the human condition until Jesus returns. Refusal to submit to the known commands of God because they don’t suit the spirit of the times or some scholar’s humanism, well, now we’re in Heb 10:26 ff territory — and a bishop’s frock is no protection.

    It is, of course, no easy task for me or anyone else to draw these distinctions with precision as to a particular person. We should be very slow to judge hearts and motives. But we can very properly warn against the danger. And when we see scholars arguing against the scriptures themselves, minimizing the authority of the Bible in order to push a personal agenda, warning is more than appropriate.

    PS — Resolution 1.10, which has not been repealed or amended, of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in which Wright participated as a bishop, reads as follows:

    Resolution I.10
    Human Sexuality
    This Conference:
    a. commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
    b. in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a
    woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called
    to marriage;
    c. recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a
    homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the
    pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of
    their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the
    experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by
    God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation,
    are full members of the Body of Christ;
    d. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people
    to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to
    condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation
    and commercialisation of sex;
    e. cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved
    in same gender unions;
    f. requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on
    the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources
    among us;
    g. notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the
    concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of
    Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to
    include them in their monitoring process.

    On the other hand, since then, a number of bishops have taken contrary positions, but hardly a majority of the Anglican communion. Obviously, as we’re presently covering in this series, the archbishop of Canterbury has announced a contrary position, but he is not the Anglican Pope and does not make doctrinal policy for the denomination.

  14. Gary says:

    Kevin, can you point me to any scholars or commentators who would agree with you that Jesus essentially authored the OT? I suppose that would consign the human authors to the role of scribes?

    If you don’t believe that the Law of Moses is binding on us today then there’s nothing further to talk about regarding the OT and homosexuality. Unless you can point me to a reference to homosexuality after Deuteronomy in the OT canon?

  15. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Gen 2:18 does not authorize “the marriage of any two people who can be suitable and appropriate helps or life companions for each other.” The passage authorizes the marriage of a man and a woman, complementary sexes. To suggest that the text somehow approves same-sex marriage is eisogesis…especially given the condemnation of homosexuality activity throughout all of scripture.

  16. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Gary, do you suppose that Moses, the prophets, and other authors of scripture did so without the guidance of the divine? Were they not inspired?

  17. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Finally, you are mixing apples and oranges with the Law of Moses. Just because a passage from the Law or the prophets contains some guidance or instruction, does not mean that the passage is necessarily limited in scope to the Law of Moses. We learn a lot about God and His nature in the Torah, the Psalms, and the Prophets that is not replicated in the NT. This doesn’t mean that the passage is not applicable today. We must discern between commandments that were strictly applicable to the tenets of the Law of Moses and the eternal truths that are for all time. We do not find a shred of authority for homosexual activity pre-Law; we find it condemned in the strongest possible manner in the Law; and we find it thoroughly condemned in the NT. It follows, logically, that the prohibition against homosexual activity is eternal. Consequently, it is only fitting and proper that Bible scholars would look to Deut because the passage informs us with regard to the consistency of the mind of God on the matter.

  18. Gary says:

    Kevin, you’re a little too slippery for me. The Law of Moses as a whole is not binding on us today but parts of it are? That seems to be what you’re saying. And I suppose you’re able to discern what is applicable today and what is not? Well then you tell me: is the abomination of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 still an abomination today or not? Answering that would be a good starting point. I’ve addressed ad nauseum for regular readers of this blog every reference to homosexuality in Scripture. If you want to disagree with me on a particular passage then we perhaps can have a meaningful exchange. But simply asserting that Scripture condemns committed same-sex marriages does not make it so.

    Regarding Genesis 2:18, if Adam had been a homosexual man incapable of heterosexual arousal would Eve have been a suitable and appropriate life companion for him? If not, how could a woman be a suitable and appropriate life companion for any gay man? Without answering such specifics no meaningful exchange of reasoning between us is possible.

  19. Gary says:

    Jay, thank you for a frank and thoughtful response to my question about same-sex marriages and Christian fellowship. I agree with the broad outline you have set forth if not with every detail. I think you set forth a framework that can in the longterm preserve Christian unity despite differences on this and other matters.

  20. Gary says:

    Kevin, I will make clearer what I already thought was clear. Jesus said not one word about homosexuality during his earthly ministry that has been recorded for us in Scripture. Attributing at least potentially every word of the Torah personally to Jesus is a bridge too far for me at this time. Does any scholar or commentator back you up on this view?

  21. Gary says:

    Jay, the diversity you describe in the Anglican communion is similar in general to the diversity that now exists within the international CoC communion. Early in this century I was part of two mission groups in the interior of Jamaica. It may be different now but Jamaican Churches of Christ at that time were very close to what American Churches of Christ had been like in the 1950’s. Jimmy Allen’s book on Rebaptism was a controversial book for them. In some cases it seems that conservative CoC missionaries have created their ideal of Churches of Christ in other countries after it became clear that American Churches of Christ had moved on. It can be like going back in time in the Churches of Christ of some nations.

  22. Dustin says:

    For those against communion with gay-married couples, how do you handle the different opinions concerning killing/murdering/just war? As Richard Beck has discussed, conservative Christian communities allow for different opinions over an explicit command from Jesus but won’t budge on Paul’s vice lists.

  23. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Gary, it’s not slippery at all. God spoke through the prophets. Moses was a prophet. Scripture is God-breathed. The authors were inspired. This is the very basis of sola scriptura. Surely you do not take the position that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were not in congruence when “God” spoke threw Moses in Deuteronomy…??

    Once again, I have not remotely suggested that we are amenable to the Law of Moses. I have fully suggested that we have plenty to learn about God and His nature from the Law of Moses. One of the things we learn is that God condemned homosexual activity in the Law just as he condemned it in the NT. That’s a trend, regardless of how much we may wish it to not be so.

    Deut 24 wrt MDR is superseded by teachings in the Gospels and in Paul’s letters, so, no, we do not follow the former given the instructions of the latter.

    You are right, my asserting that scripture condemns homosexual activity doesn’t make so…Paul, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, makes it so.

    Re: Gen 2:18, your entire argument is counter factual…”If Adam had been a homosexual man…” Gary, that’s all smoke and mirrors…it is also highly presumptuous. The fact is that God created Adam as a heterosexual male and God called it very good. Whenever homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible, it is most definitely NOT good.

  24. Larry Cheek says:

    What is there about the Deuteronomy message that attracts your interest in pursuing a same sex marriage? Is it really, whether men today do not teach and enforce that a man who divorces his wife and she marries another cannot remarry her? You seem to believe that God’s message today promotes that action, when in reality it was man in his error who has promoted that cure for MDR. When did man start telling God what he should accept?
    I do believe that I understand why you will not suggest that we look at Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 for comparison?
    Because it is not possible for you to question who authored the message (identified in the first verse) and of course to deny that Christ had any input into the directive here would necessitate that he was not in the beginning part of the Godhead. Can you prove that he was a later creation of God? Does God now just cover all these laws with Grace and make them irrelevant? Which of these are impossible to obey today? Only those which require the death sentence? Can you show where God voided these rules in the NT?

  25. Gary says:

    Kevin, if God created Adam as a heterosexual male then it is also true that God has created millions of men today as homosexual men. God said that it is not good for humankind to be alone. We are created in such a way that we long to have a suitable and appropriate life companion who will also be our sexual lover. You may not like the question but it is obvious that Eve could not have been Adam’s suitable and appropriate life companion had Adam been homosexual. That wouldn’t have worked very well now would it? Neither does it work today when people marry outside their sexual orientation. God doesn’t expect millions of gay folks today to go against the way we have been created and live alone and celibate. If you are gay and celibacy is your calling more power to you. But if you’re straight then this is only a theoretical concern for you. Gay Christians are increasingly coming out of the closet and marrying within our sexual orientation. We’re here and we’re not going back into the closet. How you choose to deal with this reality is of course up to you. As for me I am at peace with meeting my maker as a gay man who is living in accord with the truth that it is not good to be alone. I do believe that anti-gay Christians will more and more find themselves isolated and marginalized not only in our wider society but also in the Christian community. Within a decade churches that are perceived to be anti-gay will likely be as on the fringe as racist churches are today. I still love Churches of Christ and I would like to see them avoid that fate.

  26. Gary says:

    Larry, either we are under the Law of Moses today or we are not. I believe that we are not. You and many others seem to believe that we are under parts of it. But which parts? And who is inspired today to know which commands are binding today and which are not? As far as I can see if you’re going to be bound by part of the Law consistency demands that you follow it all. Don’t stop with homosexuals. Drive out of your church folks with tatoos and heterosexual couples who have intercourse during menstruation. Stone rebellious children. I mean if it’s really God’s law for us today shouldn’t we be brave enough to follow it and let the chips fall where they may?

  27. Dwight says:

    Gary, so your position is since the Law of Moses declared murder and idolatry sinful, then because we do not follow the law of Moses it is not sinful today? Hmmmm. The problem is that God never repealed moral laws from the OT and even restated them in the NT, which was done about sexual immorality that covered bestiality, incest, etc. God did author the OT since He is God and was from the beginning. The sin of homosexuality is condemned in the NT, by Paul, buyt since you think Paul is biased, then you won’t accept it, but then again Paul made command as guided by the Holy Spirit, so it is really the Holy Spirit and God that is biased. If you believe that homosexualtiy is acceptable due to the OT being not in force, then you must also allow bestiality, incest, pedophilia, etc. There is no way to exclude one without excluding them all. Or including one without including them all.

  28. Gary says:

    Dwight, all of God’s moral laws today can be summed up by the Golden Rule contained in the Sermon on the Mount. So of course murder is sinful. For me this includes not trying to require other people to live out their lives alone and celibate. I don’t want anyone trying to require that of me so I won’t try to require that of others. Another way of saying that is that I don’t want to be treated cruelly so I won’t treat others cruelly. What God desires of us today morally is set out beautifully in the Sermon on the Mount. Not only are we not under the Law of Moses today; we don’t need it. The teaching of Jesus is enough for even the best of us to spend our lives trying to follow.

  29. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    IMO, you have embraced a hermeneutic that scratches an itch but is logically unsustainable. Essentially, “If God created Adam as X (which we all agree that He didn’t), then it follows that God approves of X behavior…so, clearly, God approves of X behavior since there are those today who are X.” Classic circular reasoning…God approves of homosexual activity because there are homosexuals, and because there are homosexuals, God approves of homosexual activity. According to your logic, “If God created Adam as an angiosperm, then God would approve of bestiality since insects frequently pollinate angiosperms. Thus it follows that God approves of bestiality today, since there are men who are sexually attracted to female sheep.”

    Further, you wrote, “God doesn’t expect millions of gay folks today to go against the way we have been created and live alone and celibate.” God created me to intensely desire sex with women other than my wife. According to your logic, I should embrace the way I was created regardless of divine counsel to the contrary. And what about those who are born with other inherent desires? Where does it stop? Just fill in the blank: “God does not expect _____ people to go against the way they have been created.”

    You wrote, “Gay Christians are increasingly coming out of the closet and marrying within our sexual orientation. We’re here and we’re not going back into the closet.” That’s irrelevant as to whether homosexual behavior is acceptable to God. You seem to imply that sheer numbers justify a practice, and yet we know the futility of such an argument for Moses warns, “Do not follow a crowd to do evil.” Christ said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

    You wrote, “I do believe that anti-gay Christians will more and more find themselves isolated and marginalized not only in our wider society but also in the Christian community. Within a decade churches that are perceived to be anti-gay will likely be as on the fringe as racist churches are today.” This too is irrelevant, and a cheap social scare tactic…”You better get on board with the culture, or you risk being ostracized.” I recall Peter and other Apostles receiving a similar warning to get on the team or else, yet they responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” Amen.

    You wrote, “How you choose to deal with this reality is of course up to you. As for me I am at peace with meeting my maker as a gay man who is living in accord with the truth that it is not good to be alone.” Gary, I don’t wish you ill. I am not resentful of the homosexual lobby in the US. I don’t spend any of my time lamenting “America” over this issue. I am a member of the Kingdom first, so that is where my concerns rest. As such, I will pray for you out of love because based on my reading of the scriptures, anyone who embraces an impenitent sinful lifestyle cannot go to heaven.

  30. Gary says:

    Kevin, I turn 59 this year and I well remember when almost all CoC stalwarts believed that men and women in “unscriptural” second marriages with living first spouses were “living in adultery” and could not go to heaven. I haven’t heard that in a long time now; have you? The Bible hasn’t changed but our understanding of it has changed drastically. I don’t know your age. I would guess that you’re a younger guy. You may not believe it now but, if God grants you a long life, you may believe much differently on many subjects later in your life than you do now. I’m not nearly as rigid and judgemental now as I was when I was younger. I don’t believe now that God creates untold millions of people with homosexual orientations and then condemns them for acting on their orientations by finding their suitable and appropriate life companions.

    No regular reader of this blog can accuse me of not addressing the particular references in Scripture to homosexuality. I have addressed them over and over again. If you want to discuss any of them I would be glad to continue our dialogue. By the way, bestiality is wrong if for no other reason than that there can be no consent on the part of the poor animal so bestiality is unjust and cruel. Bestiality is therefore akin to rape and has nothing to do with consensual homosexual relationships. Also, regarding your desire for multiple women, we know that God has allowed polygamy and that it was never forbidden in Scripture for Christians. Some of your arguments should definitely be retired.

  31. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    No, not young anymore. And, yes, I have heard COC stalwarts condemn people for all sorts of things. And baptists do the same. And Catholics do the same. And Methodists do the same. This is not unique among COCs. And, yes, many have subsequently changed their mind on a particular issue.

    But here is where we diverge. You seem to think that truth somehow changed over the lives of these men. I flatly reject that notion. Perhaps you failed to consider that, in some instances, these men’s positions were wrong to begin with, and then they reached a position IAW truth. Or perhaps it is the other way around…they began with a position in congruence with truth, but changed to a position that contrasted with the truth. God’s truth doesn’t change because men find it inconvenient, so we will have to disagree on what arguments should be retired.

    “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

    “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

    “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”

    “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sin…”

    I’ll stick with the scriptures on this one; there are few issues in which the scriptural evidence is more consistent and/or clear.

  32. Gary says:

    Kevin, which scriptures are so clear regarding homosexual marriages today? Paul’s seeming condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1 is limited by his own words to those who exchange or give up their heterosexuality for homosexuality. That doesn’t describe those with lifelong homosexual orientations. There is no concensus today about the meaning of malakos and arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6. In less than half a century three teams of all conservative scholars on the three NIV translations could not agree among themselves on the meaning of malakos and arsenokoitai. So you tell me Kevin which scriptures are so clear that you can know without any doubt that I and others like me will not be in heaven? That’s a pretty heavy burden of proof you’ve assumed. Can you back it up with Scripture?

  33. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    And yet the NIV team was not ambiguous in their rendering of I Cor 6:9:
    “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men…”

    Nor were the ESV scholars: “Or do you not know that the unrighteousfn will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,…”

    Nor the HCSB scholars: “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality,…”

    Nor the NASB scholars: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor fneffeminate, nor homosexuals,…”

    I don’t have a heavy burden of proof, Gary. On the contrary, I would argue that you have the heavy burden of seeking God’s authority for a practice that lacks authority during pre-LoM, is condemned in the Law, and is condemned in the NT. The totality of scripture, the majority of biblical scholars, and the consensus of church history are in unison.

  34. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Standard Greek lexicons and dictionaries understand this word as a reference to homosexual behavior:

    ‘ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ arsenokoitēs male homosexual* Referring to a male who engages in sexual activity with men or boys: 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Pol. Phil. 5:3; W. L. PETERSEN, “Can ἀρσενοκοῖται be translated by ‘Homosexuals’?” Vigiliae Christianae 40 (1986) 187-91. — D. F. WRIGHT, Translating ΑΡΣΕΝΟΚΟΙΤΑΙ,” Vigiliae Christianae 41 (1987) 396-98.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament’, p. 158 (1990).

    ‘ἀρρενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ, sodomite, AP9.686, (Maced. iv/vi A.D., v. BCHsuppl. 8 no. 87); (ἀρσ-) 1Ep.Cor.6.9.’, Liddell, Scott, Jones, & McKenzie, ‘A Greek-English Lexicon’, p. 246 (rev. and augm. throughout, 19996).

    ‘ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ an adult male who practices sexual intercourse with another adult male or a boy homosexual, sodomite, pederast.’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller, ‘Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, p. 76 (2000).

    ‘ἄρσην G781 (arsēn), male; θῆλυς G2559 (thēlys), female; ἀρσενοκοίτης G780 (arsenokoitēs), male homosexual, pederast, sodomite.’, Brown, ‘New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology’, volume 2, p. 562 (1986).

    ‘88.280 ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου m: a male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’’, Louw & Nida, ‘Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains’, volume 1, p. 771 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition 1996).

    ‘733. ἀρσενοκοίτης arsenokoítēs; gen. arsenokoítou, masc. noun, from ársēn (730), a male, and koítē (2845), a bed. A man who lies in bed with another male, a homosexual (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10 [cf. Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:27]).’, Zodhiates, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’ (electronic ed. 2000).

    ‘a male who engages in sexual activity w. a pers. of his own sex, pederast 1 Cor 6:9 (on the impropriety of RSV’s ‘homosexuals’ [altered to ‘sodomites’ NRSV] s. WPetersen, VigChr 40, ’86, 187–91; cp. DWright, ibid. 41, ’87, 396–98; REB’s rendering of μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται w. the single term ‘sexual pervert’ is lexically unacceptable), of one who assumes the dominant role in same-sex activity, opp. μαλακός (difft. DMartin, in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality, ed. RBrawley, ’96, 117–36); 1 Ti 1:10; Pol 5:3. Cp. Ro 1:27. Romans forbade pederasty w. free boys in the Lex Scantinia, pre-Cicero (JBremmer, Arethusa 13, ’80, 288 and notes); Paul’s strictures against same-sex activity cannot be satisfactorily explained on the basis of alleged temple prostitution (on its rarity, but w. some evidence concerning women used for sacred prostitution at Corinth s. LWoodbury, TAPA 108, ’78, 290f, esp. note 18 [lit.]), or limited to contract w. boys for homoerotic service (s. Wright, VigChr 38, ’84, 125–53).’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer (eds.), ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature’, p. 135 (3rd ed. 2000).

  35. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    arsenokoites: a male engaging in same-gender sexual activity
    Original Word: ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ
    Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
    Transliteration: arsenokoites
    Short Definition: a male engaging in same-gender sexual activity
    Definition: a male engaging in same-gender sexual activity; a sodomite, pederast.

    ἀρσενοκοίτης, ἀρσενοκοιτου, ὁ (ἄρσην a male; κοίτη a bed), one who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite: 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10. (Anthol. 9, 686, 5; ecclesiastical writings.)

  36. Monty says:

    Here’s an article that suggests that pedophilia is next on the list as something people are “born with.” Gary, you repeat (as if it were a fact) that homosexuals are born that way when there is absolutely no indication from any studies(even though many, I’m confident, have set out to prove it)that’s true. Say it enough times it eventually becomes accepted as fact strategy. Now comes rhetoric from those on the left about pedophiles being “born that way.”

  37. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    The commentaries seem to be generally consistent. Where there is disagreement wrt this passage (1 Cor 6:9), even those who adhere to a slightly different position (Fee) admit that other NT passages in Rom and Tim negate the approval of homosexual behavior.

    I. Baker New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Simon Kistemaker)
    The next three categories are adulterers, homosexuals, and sodomites. The first Greek expression, moichoi (adulterers), describes the sexual sin which a married person commits with someone who either is or is not married; it results in breaking the marriage bond. The next Greek word, malakoi (homosexuals), relates to “men and boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually.”27 This word connotes passivity and submission. By contrast, the third Greek term, arsenokoitai (sodomites), represents men who initiate homosexual practices (1 Tim. 1:10). They are the active partners in these pursuits

    II. Black’s New Testament Commentary: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (C.K. Barrett)
    Fornicators (to be taken broadly; see 5:1 and the notes), idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites (the passive and active partners respectively in male homosexual relations),

    III. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (Paul Ellingworth)
    Another way to say this is “people who commit sexual sins.” Sexual perverts translates two Greek words that refer respectively to “the passive and active partners … in male homosexual relation” (Barrett)…Paul thought of the practice of homosexuality as a form of perversion.

    IV. Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Ben Witherington)
    In the vice list in vv. 9f. we have the heavily debated terms malakoi and arsenokoitai. These two terms are probably intentionally paired together, and their meaning should stand or fall together. Malakoi in its root meaning means “smooth” or “effeminate.” Dionysius of Halicarnassus (7.2.4) uses this term to refer to a young male prostitute. Pederasty, molestation of minors by adult males, was the most common form of homosexuality in antiquity (cf. Philo De Spec. Leg. 3.37–39). The two terms refer respectively, then, to the leading and following partners in a homosexual pederastic tryst.18
    Some have urged that only pederasty is condemned in the NT, not homosexuality in general. If this were the only passage where Paul addressed the issue, one could argue in that way. But Rom. 1:26f. clearly shows Paul’s view of homosexual relationships in general. The reference there to lesbian relationships shows that Paul’s condemnation of same-sex relationships is not limited to pederasty.19

    V. Holman New Testament Commentary: I & II Corinthians (Richard Pratt)
    Here he first mentioned sexual sins: (1) the sexually immoral, those who are involved in any kind of premarital or extramarital sexual relations; (2) idolaters, mentioned here because of the close association between sexual immorality and many pagan religions; (3) adulterers, those who break the sanctity of marital sexual exclusivity; (4) male prostitutes, those who served in pagan religious sexual rituals, and (5) homosexual offenders, those who practice homosexual relations in general.

    VI. Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (NT Wright’s translation)
    Don’t you know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived! Neither immoral people, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor practising homosexuals of whichever sort, 10 nor thieves, nor greedy people, nor drunkards, nor abusive talkers, nor robbers will inherit God’s kingdom.
    The terms Paul uses here include two words which have been much debated, but which, experts have now established, clearly refer to the practice of male homosexuality. The two terms refer respectively to the passive or submissive partner and the active or aggressive one, and Paul places both roles in his list of unacceptable behaviour. As with everything else on the list, these are practices that some people find they deeply want to engage in, so much so that in our own day (this is a novelty of the last hundred years or so) we have seen the rise of the words ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ as an identifying label, a sign of a hidden ‘identity’ which can be ‘discovered’ or ‘recognized’. Biblical witness and pastoral insight alike suggest that this is deeply misleading—as is the implication that all humans need active sexual experience, of whatever sort they prefer, in order to be complete, to be fully alive.

  38. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    VII. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition)
    More difficult to understand are the references to “male prostitutes” (malakos,) and “homosexual offenders” (arsenokoitēs). Malakos is an adjective meaning “soft,” but this word was also used pejoratively for men who had an effeminate nature and displayed a passive role in a sexual relationship; in many cases these were younger men who allowed themselves to be used sexually by older men. Arsenokoitēs literally means “one who lies in bed with a male” (cf. Lev 18:22; 20:13) and most likely refers to the practice of homosexuality (cf. Paul’s words in Ro 1:26–27 on this issue).
    Rom 1:26-27 notes: Paul’s use of “exchanged” is suggestive. The first exchange, that of the truth for the lie, is followed by another—the upsetting of the normal course of nature in sexual relations. Instead of using the ordinary terms for men and women, Paul employs arsenes (“males,”) and thēleia (“females,”). This perversion is the unique contrivance of the human species, not being found in the animal kingdom. It was apparently abundantly evident in first-century Rome. At the end of this section, the apostle uses two expressions, “received” and “due penalty,” which in the original involve the idea of recompense, the punishment being in keeping with the offense. It can hardly be denied that for Paul homosexuality is “unnatural” (para physis,; lit., “against nature,” v. 26), and involves “shameful lusts.” His perspective would have been dictated by the OT (e.g., Lev. 18:22; 20:13). This is a subject that in our day of open advocacy has brought a new urgency and requires a special sensitivity. Stuhlmacher’s conclusion, 37, seems wise: “But now that in the course of the history of the church Paul’s general formulations have led simply to excommunicating homosexuals, instead of getting to the root of their distinct behavior, accepting them, and helping them, there does exist for us today a reason not to repeat Paul’s statements without reflection!”

    VIII. NICNT (Fee)
    The word “adulterers” means precisely that (married persons having sexual relations—of any kind—outside marriage) and needs no further comment. The next two words, however, translated “male prostitutes” and “homosexual offenders” in the NIV, require considerable comment. The first word, malakoi, has the basic meaning of “soft”; but it also became a pejorative epithet for men who were “soft” or “effeminate,” most likely referring to the younger, “passive” partner in a pederastic relationship22—the most common form of homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world.23 In many instances young men sold themselves as “mistresses” for the sexual pleasure of men older than themselves. The problem is that there was a technical word for such men, and malakos is seldom, if ever, so used. Since it is not the ordinary word for such homosexual behavior, one cannot be sure what it means in a list like this, where there is no further context to help. What is certain is that it refers to behavior of some kind, not simply to an attitude or characteristic.24
    What makes “male prostitute” (in the sense of “effeminate call-boy”)25 the best guess is that it is immediately followed by a word that does seem to refer to male homosexuality, especially to the active partner. This word (arsenokoitai), however, is also difficult. This is its first appearance in preserved literature, and subsequent authors are reluctant to use it, especially when describing homosexual activity. The word is a compound of “male” and “intercourse.” There is no question as to the meaning of the koitai part of the word; it is vulgar slang for “intercourse” (which probably accounts for its seldom being found in the literature).26 What is not certain is whether “male” is subject (= “males who have intercourse”; thus a word for male prostitutes of all kinds) or object (= “intercourse with males”; therefore male homosexual). In light of these ambiguities, Boswell27 has argued that neither word can be certainly made to denote homosexuality. His argument, however, seems to be a case of “divide and conquer.” What may be true of the words individually is one thing. But here they are not individual; they appear side by side in a vice list that is heavily weighted toward sexual sins. Although one cannot be certain, it is very likely that the NIV is moving toward a proper understanding by translating “male prostitute” and “homosexual offender,” with the proviso that “male prostitute” most likely denotes a consenting homosexual youth. For Paul’s attitude toward homosexuality in general one need refer only to his own Jewish background with its abhorrence of such,28 plus his description of such activity (Rom. 1:26–27).

    IX. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Keener)
    That the unrighteous would not “inherit God’s kingdom,” i.e., would not have a share in it, was standard Jewish and Christian teaching. Both Jewish and pagan “vice lists” often defined the “unrighteous”; Paul follows this practice. “Do not be deceived” appears in ancient moral exhortation and is common in the New Testament. Scholars have disputed the meaning of the term translated “homosexuals” (NASB), but it seems to mean those who engage in homosexual acts, which were a common feature of Greek male life in antiquity.
    Like the rabbis, Paul engages in rhetorical damnation: even though in practice he has expelled from fellowship only the most extreme offender (5:1–5), those who continue in the lifestyles he mentions here (whether premarital sex or materialism) will not make it into the kingdom.

    X. IVPNTC (Linda Belleville)
    The fourth and fifth terms are more difficult. Male prostitutes* incorrectly translates the Greek malakoi (“soft, effeminate,” a term for men and boys who take the more passive role in homosexual relations), while homosexual offenders (TNIV “practicing homosexuals”) correctly renders the Greek arsenokoitai, “those who lie with males” (cf. Rom 1:26–27; 1 Tim 1:10). This latter term refers to men and boys who take the more active role in homosexual relations. Behind Paul’s rejection of these practices are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which he sees as still valid for the Christian community.

    XI. The Message of 1 Corinthians (David Prior)
    The single most important addition to Paul’s list of those to be excluded from God’s kingdom is contained in the one English word ‘homosexuals’. This actually (cf. RSV margin) collates two Greek words, malakoi and arsenokoitai. Barrett sees these words as referring to ‘the passive and active partners respectively in male homosexual relations’,58 but the New International Version translates the first word as ‘male prostitutes’ and the second as ‘homosexual offenders’, with the inference that Paul was referring, not to all homosexual practices, but only to those which were seen as deviant.
    Paul’s comments here have nothing to say about homosexual tendencies: those debarred from God’s kingdom are those who are active in behaviour which flouts the commandments of the King of the kingdom. Today we probably understand far more about the factors which encourage, or perhaps even produce, homosexual tendencies. A person is significantly affected by his environment, his heredity, his circumstances, his treatment by others (notably his parents) both as a child and as an adolescent. God knows the truth about these things far more precisely than any psychiatrist and any judgment he passes will be just judgment. Yet still it stands written, The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. We need the radical honesty which asks, ‘Do we really think that the laws of God will be changed for our generation, just because we have been born into it?’

  39. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    XII. The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Craig Blomberg)
    By far the biggest controversy surrounding the vice list of verses 9–10 has to do with the two words for homosexual offenders. As in Romans 1:24–27, homo-and heterosexual sins are paired in a way that suggests that neither is any better or any worse than the other. One can scarcely use these verses to claim that no one can simultaneously be a Christian and engage in homosexual actions unless one is prepared to say the same thing of one who commits adultery or exhibits greed! But in each of these instances true Christians should acknowledge their behavior as sinful and try to change it. Persistent rebellion increasingly calls into question any prior profession of faith. The Romans 1 passage also makes plain that Paul treats male and female homosexual offenders alike, even if only men are mentioned here.
    What is more, it is important to stress that actions rather than orientations predominate throughout this list. While it is false to claim that the ancient world knew nothing of apparent homosexual orientation but only actions,10 it is true that one’s predisposition need not lead to actual sin. Celibacy remains the biblically mandated alternative to heterosexual marriage for people of any orientation unable to find a permanent partner of the opposite sex. It is also linguistically invalid to limit the type of homosexual behavior Paul describes either to pederasty (adult men with underage boys) or to homosexual prostitution (casual sex for profit between individuals not committed to a lasting relationship with each other).

    XIII. Pillar New Testament Commentary: The First Letter to the Corinthians (Roy Ciampa)
    The vice list in vv. 9–10 contains ten items, six of which are repeated from 5:11. The other four expand the most relevant vices in chapters 5 and 6, namely, sexual immorality (adultery and different types of homosexual behavior) and greed (thieves). The order of the vices changes for no apparent reason. In the table below the new vices are in italics.
    1 Corinthians 6:9–10 1 Corinthians 5:11 1 Corinthians 5:9
    1. sexually immoral sexually immoral sexually immoral
    2. idolaters idolaters idolaters
    3. adulterers
    4. male prostitutes
    5. practicing homosexuals
    6. thieves
    7. greedy greedy greedy
    8. drunkards drunkards
    9. slanderers slanderers
    10. swindlers swindlers swindlers
    Whereas one new term, “thieves,”83 belongs especially to the concerns of 6:1–11, the other three deal with sexual sin, and are thus in line with the main subject matter of the rest of 1 Corinthians 5–7. “Adulterers”84 refers to married people having sexual relations outside marriage. The same term is employed in the Decalogue (LXX Exod. 20:13; LXX Deut. 5:18 [17]) and the Holiness code (LXX Lev. 20:10).
    With the next two terms Paul refers to homosexual behavior of one form or another.85 Rather than referring to “male prostitutes and practicing homosexuals” (TNIV), they are better understood as referring to those who willingly play the passive and active roles in homosexual acts. Paul is not discussing “homosexuals” per se, but homosexual acts (commonly engaged in by Roman men who were also active in heterosexual relationships). In the Roman world, homosexual relations were invariably exploitative relations between men of quite contrasting social statures. It was not uncommon for married men to practice heterosexual sex with their wives (and female slaves and prostitutes) and to also engage in homosexual relations with male prostitutes or slave boys or other young men of lower class who had little freedom to refuse.86 Romans did not think in terms of sexual orientation or identities, but that proper masculinity was to be expressed in taking the active, dominant role in any sexual act. To desire or willingly play a passive homosexual role was considered shameful, but it was expected that men of stature would penetrate people of lesser status (whether women or men) but not be penetrated themselves. The Jewish and Christian perspective affirmed by Paul was quite different.
    Paul’s opposition to all homosexual behavior (clearly targeting those who engaged in it freely and willingly) seems to derive from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which represent absolute bans.87 Paul’s opposition to homosexual acts was not because he had not thought about the subject88 or had simply taken over a conventional list of vices from Hellenistic authors, whether Jewish or secular (the view of Scroggs). Paul opposed homosexual behavior on the basis of creation theology89 and because it is marked as a vice in the Torah and was stressed as a vice by Jews.90

    XIV. The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Anthony Thiselton)
    The four terms which Paul adds as distinctive to 1 Cor 6:9–10 as against the other six include two that go back to the Decalogue and two that are virtually new as Greek words in the NT. Prohibitions against stealing and committing adultery occur in the Decalogue: οὐ μοιχεύσεις (Exod 20:13; Deut 5:18, LXX) and οὐ κλέψεις (Exod 20:14; Deut 5:19 LXX; MT 5:17). But the remaining two words are controversial. μαλακός outside sexual contexts means soft, as in a soft tongue (γλῶσσα δὲ μαλακὴ συντρίβει ὀστᾶ, Prov 25:15 LXX); or soft clothing (Matt 11:8). In hellenistic literature of the Roman period it may mean effeminate when applied to men (Dio Chrysostom, 49 [66]; Diogenes Laertius, 7: 173, and papyri).144 In 1 Cor 6:9 its syntagmatic relation with ἀρσενοκοῖται influences its semantic range. But this verse may well be the earliest occurrence of ἀρσενοκοῖτης as a compound adjectival form, and thus it has no lexicographical pre-history. Nevertheless, as we shall note, writers are virtually agreed that its component aspects signify sleeping with, or having sexual relations with (κοῖτης) males (ἄρσην, male [noun], ἀρσενικός, male [adjective], usually in a sexual context).145
    Both terms have received intense lexicographical scrutiny. Scroggs allows that while μαλακός may mean unmanly in general terms, more characteristically it is used of “the youth who consciously imitated feminine styles and ways.”146 This all too readily slips into “passive homosexual activity” whether for pleasure or for pay.147 From the classical period to Philo extreme distaste is expressed in Greek and hellenistic literature for the effeminate male who uses cosmetics and the coiffuring of the hair, for which Philo sometimes uses the term ἀνδρόγυνος, male-female (e.g., De Specialibus Legibus 3.37). These issues lie behind the astonishing array of English translations in our versions.148
    In general there is broad (but not unanimous) agreement that μαλακοί in 1 Cor 6:9–10 denotes “the passive … partner … in male homosexual relations” (Barrett), but whereas Scroggs argues that it refers to the call boy who prostitutes his services to an older male, usually for pay, many others tend to regard the evidence for restricting the term to contexts of pederasty linked with male prostitution as at best indecisive and at worst unconvincing.149 Scroggs depends for his view on the background of pederastic practices in Graeco-Roman society (whether voluntary, or for payment) and the impact of this culture for the pejorative reactions in hellenistic Judaism (especially Philo).150 Dale Martin’s close study of the role of the body in first-century Graeco-Roman and Pauline thought provides a new twist to the notion of a lifestyle which does not properly express one’s own gender in a way suitable, respectively, for females and for males: “every human body, male or female, occupies some position on the spectrum male-female.”151
    We remain on speculative ground until we consider the two terms in relation to each other. Here the debate tends mainly to turn on whether the joint use of the two terms signifies male prostitution (Boswell; cf. Scroggs), or homosexual relations between the more “passive” and more “active” partner, without specific reference to pederasty (Scroggs) or to prostitution (Boswell).152 Some such translation as nor perverts nor homosexuals (Collins) or perhaps catamites and sodomites (Barrett) is broadly supported by the first fourteen writers listed in the note.153 On one point each side in the debate tends to “talk past” the other. At opposite ends of the spectrum, so to speak, R. Scroggs and D. F. Wright both agree that ἀρσενοκοῖται means the lying-in-bed (-κοῖται) of males (ἀρσεν-), i.e., “one who lies with a male,” as this occurs in Lev 18:22 (and Lev 20:13).154 Scroggs concedes that “the Hebrew is translated faithfully” but also floats the possibility that the plural form is not gender-specific in terms of grammar alone, and hence may refer to women prostitutes who have relations with males; but he does not seriously press the point other than to insist on an element of ambiguity.155 He concedes: “parts of the Greek compound appear in the Septuagint versions of the laws in Leviticus,” and in rabbinic legal discussions “lying with a male” (mishkav zakur) is “the term most often used to describe male homosexuality.”156
    The issue does not turn in fact on whether a link can be traced between Lev 18:22 (and 20:13) and 1 Cor 6:9–10, but on whether Paul sees the OT origins entirely through the lenses of hellenistic Jewish recontextualizations in terms of Graeco-Roman society, or whether he interprets the OT as Christian scripture offering direct paradigms for the habituated lifestyle and ethics of God’s holy people as a corporate identity. In terms of the vocabulary of our own day, does Paul use the OT critically in the sense of his being aware of different traditions of interpretation and vocabulary currencies? If so, this would lend support to J. B. de Young’s argument that Lev 20:13 and 1 Cor 6:9 include more than one form of male sexual relation with male, and D. F. Wright’s case (especially against Boswell) that the language of Lev 18:22, 20:13, and 1 Cor 6:9, each of which he understands as sleeping with men, witnesses to the seriousness with which Paul views the OT as Christian scripture. Similarly, even if (which we doubt) the LXX gives a “spin” to the Hebrew in ways proposed by Scroggs and by Boswell, we cannot assume that Paul recontextualizes the OT traditions in the way followed by Philo and strands of literature in hellenistic Judaism. Paul does not surrender an emphasis on the holiness and corporate identity of the covenant people of God in favor of Stoic views of “nature” as a basis for ethics. As Fitzmyer comments on Rom 1:18–32, even if Stoic or hellenistic-Jewish notions “color” Paul’s notions of “nature,” Paul uses the concept in a different way as “the order intended by the Creator, the order that is manifest in God’s creation” in this context (even if the meaning in 1 Corinthians 11 comes nearer to notions of “convention”).157
    Kenneth Bailey also seeks to shed light on the issues by a careful structural analysis of 6:9–20 concerning the wider theological basis of sexuality in Paul’s thought. He argues that 6:9–20 constitutes a carefully constructed literary whole of five stanzas in which (a) the five sexual failures listed relate especially to ch. 5 and 6:12–20, while (b) the remaining five relate to issues of eating and drinking (cf. 11:17–34, “Some are hungry, some yet drunk”).158 Neither the “sexual” sins nor the “greed, grasping” sins have prior condemnation over the other: both concern the body. Nevertheless, each subcategory within each of the two groups remains significant. Hence, Bailey argues, among the sexual failures being associated with idolatry opens the door theologically, socially, and ethically to laissez-faire unfaithfulness in principle. Of the remaining four dispositions which are expressed in acts, two are heterosexual and two are homosexual. In the heterosexual context adultery concerns married people; while illicit relationships may apply to single people. In the homosexual context, one applies to the more “active” or “lead” role, the other to the converse.159
    We cannot be certain that Bailey’s arguments hold, but they are impressive and carry much weight. In our view Zaas and Bailey offer more substance than the attempts of Scroggs and Furnish to place so much weight on assimilations of Graeco-Roman contexts of thought. On the other side, however, overattention to lexicographical, contextual, and historical detail should not blind us to Vasey’s reminder that in the society of imperial Rome Jews and Christians saw a “form of homosexuality [which] was strongly associated with idolatry, slavery and social dominance. It was often the assertion of the strong over the bodies of the weak.”160 This no doubt colored Paul’s perception, and coheres with certain attitudes related to wealth, status, manipulation, and power at Corinth.
    Some Brief Starting Points toward a Hermeneutic
    (a) Within the catalogue of ten dispositions which achieve unchecked habituated action in the public domain, only two concern same-sex relations, and these receive no greater emphasis than the other eight. Of the ten, half concern attitudes of grasping for more, an addiction to gain possessions or power at the expense of others. It may well be that this common thread runs through all of the “vices,” and any persistent activity cited here should be regarded on an equal footing when issues of church membership, ordination, or related questions are discussed. Constraints are laid upon heterosexual desire, and upon desire for ever increasing power and possessions, as much as upon same-sex relations.
    (b) The claims often made that “the issue of ‘homosexuality’-psychosexual orientation—simply was not a biblical issue” are confused.161 Paul addresses every form of “desire,” whether heterosexual or materialistic, and distinguishes between passionate longing and action (cf. 7:9). It is true that “homosexual orientation” does not feature as a phenomenon for explicit comment, but to dismiss the parallel, e.g., between heterosexual desire and an illicit habituated heterosexual relationship is itself to isolate same-sex relations from other ethical issues in a way which such writers as Furnish, Scroggs, Boswell, and Nelson rightly deplore. Many also argue that abusive pederasty was the standard form in which Paul encountered male intimacy. But Wolff shows that this is far from the case. Paul witnessed around him both abusive relationships of power or money and examples of “genuine love” between males. We must not misunderstand Paul’s “worldly” knowledge.162
    (c) On the basis of the distance between the first and twentieth centuries, many ask: “Is the situation addressed by the biblical writer genuinely comparable to our own?”163 The more closely writers examine Graeco-Roman society and the pluralism of its ethical traditions, the more the Corinthian situation appears to resonate with our own. Some writers believe that Paul simply took over conventions from hellenistic Judaism, while others see him as returning to the OT as a source of a distinctive ethic for a distinctive people. A more substantial problem arises from whether undue attention to the Levitical and Deuteronomic codes would signify a “Judaizing” obsession with law as against gospel. It is a valid observation that Lev 18:22; 19:19, 27, 28; 20:13; and 21:5 include prohibitions against cross-breeding animals, sowing two kinds of seed in a field, and wearing garments made of two different materials, which virtually everyone does today. But some of these passages relate to issues beneath the surface. The prohibitions about reshaping beards and hair (Lev 19:26–28), e.g., probably relate to practices designed to avoid recognition by evil spirits who supposedly hover around a dead body and operate only in the context of such beliefs. Whether principles of differentiation between gender-roles belong merely to ancient worldviews or form part of God’s design for his holy covenant people must be judged in the light of patient exegesis and theological reflection. (See on 11:2–16.) What is clear from the connection between 1 Cor 6:9 and Rom 1:26–29 and their OT backgrounds is Paul’s endorsement of the view that idolatry, i.e., placing human autonomy to construct one’s values above covenant commitments to God, leads to a collapse of moral values in a kind of domino effect. As writers as different from each other in stance as Kenneth Bailey and Dale Martin agree, 1 Corinthians strongly affirms that the body and its practices occupies a place of paramount importance for those who are united with Christ.164

  40. Gary says:

    Kevin, lexicons change definitions over the years. Malakos, for example, was for centuries almost universally translated as masturbators. Lexicons are the last refuge now of conservatives on homosexuality but the meaning given arsenokoites and malakos in lexicons will likely change over the course of this century. I highly recommend an online article by Dale Martin who is an Abilene Christian University graduate and now a professor at Yale Divinity School. He explores thoroughly what we can know about the meaning of malakos and arsenokoitai. This is off the top of my head but I believe the title is “Malakos and Arsenokoites: Meanings and Consequences.”

    No one knows for sure what Paul meant when he used arsenokoites because it is the very first use of the word in Greek literature. Apparently Paul coined the word. If he had wanted to refer to all men who engage in homosexuality he would have used the common word paiderrastes which anyone would have understood. 1,000 lexicons cannot change this fact or tell us what Paul was thinking. Martin demonstrates from the way the word is later used that it had an element of exploitation in it. It is a compound word: man beds or man copulates. However we don’t know if man is the subject or the object. For example, there is a later use of it referring to a male prostitute for women, a gigolo. Most (all?) of your lexicons will not tell you this. Compound words are often difficult to understand from their componet words. Take our word understand, for example. Someone learning the English language would not be able to comprehend its meaning from the words under and stand. Anyone who states that they are sure they know what arsenokoites means in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is giving at best an educated guess- all the lexicons in the world notwithstanding.

  41. Gary says:

    I just reread Martin’s article, Arsenokoites and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences. He gives more information on how these words were used in Greek literature than all the other sources combined that have been cut and pasted here today. Some references to arsenokoites after Paul do not even use it in a sexual context. It evidently had a broader meaning than as a reference solely to sex. When it does come up in a sexual context there is an element of exploitation. Where context is given I don’t believe malakos and arsenokoites together ever referred simply to men having sex together.

  42. Gary says:

    Andre Wrozalowsky wrote a thought-provoking article in 2012 entitled, I believe, “The Dirty Truth About Lexicons.” He doesn’t think they’re worthless but he cautions against citing a lexicon as a final authority. He discusses how many assertions in lexicons are guesses and repetition from prior sources.

  43. Gary says:

    John Lee, a Greek professor for over three decades, wrote in 2003 a 400+ page book, A History of New Testament Lexicography. He goes into extensive detail on the weaknesses and shortcomings of Greek lexicons. Even Danker has cautioned against using his lexicon as an authoritative source. If conservatives are resting their case against committed same-sex relationships on lexicons then it’s a weak case. I would like to see someone respond point by point to Dale Martin’s “Malakos and Arsenokoites: Meanings and Consequences.” Many conservatives take issue with him online but they’re not responding, as far as I can see, to the specific evidence he presents on the use of malakos and arsenokoites.

  44. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    This is not nearly as complicated as we would sometimes argue.

    (Mat 15:16-20 ESV) 16 And [Jesus] said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

    So Jesus very plainly condemns “sexual immorality,” which translates porneia. In his historical context, what did that word mean? Well, when spoken by a Jewish rabbi to a Jewish audience steeped in the Torah, what would they have heard? They clearly would have heard Jesus as condemning homosexual activity along with many other forms of sexual conduct considered sinful.

    And so Jesus spoke plainly on the subject.

    But it must be admitted that the word porneia itself is very broad. In unambiguous contexts it can on occasion refer to a specific kind of sexual sin. Yet even then this is possible only because the specific sexual sin belongs to the larger category of sexual immorality. Porneia covers the entire range of such sins (cf. TDNT, 6:579–95; BAGD, s.v.; Joseph Jensen, “Does porneia Mean Fornication? A Critique of Bruce Malina,” NovTest 20 [1978]: 161–84) and should not be restricted unless the context requires it.

    D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1984, 8, 414.

    The Greek term for sexual immorality, porneia, covers a wide spectrum—adultery, homosexuality, sex with animals, and general fornication (sex with anyone outside of marriage). The term for all impurity in 5:3 is the same word used in Ephesians 4:19.

    Wendy Horger Alsup, By His Wounds You Are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2010), 100.

    The Greek term from the Septuagint is porneia. This word usually referred to extramarital intercourse, but it also had the added connotation of any improper extramarital sexual activity, such as homosexuality or bestiality.

    Robert James Utley, The First Christian Primer: Matthew, Study Guide Commentary Series, (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), Volume 9:44.

    The word porneia (“sexual immorality”) in the Greek world simply meant “prostitution,” in the sense of going to the prostitutes and paying for sexual pleasure. The Greeks were ambivalent on that matter, depending on whether one went openly to the brothels or was more discreet and went with a paramour. But the word had been picked up in Hellenistic Judaism, always pejoratively, to cover all extramarital sexual sins and aberrations, including homosexuality. It could also refer to any of these sins specifically, as it does here. In the NT the word is thus used to refer to that particular blight on Greco-Roman culture, which was almost universally countenanced, except among the Stoics.20 That is why porneia appears so often as the first item in the NT vice lists, not because Christians were sexually “hung up,” nor because they considered this the primary sin, the “scarlet letter,” as it were. It is the result of its prevalence in the culture, and the difficulty the early church experienced with its Gentile converts breaking with their former ways, which they did not consider immoral.

    Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 199–200.

    Porneia, “Sexual Immorality.” The clearest basis for the word porneia is the verb porneuō, which first meant “to prostitute oneself” or “indulge in prostitution.” (Porneuō is closely related to an older verb, pernēmi, meaning “to sell.”) Porneuō soon came to include any form of unlawful sexual intercourse, fornication, or unchastity. Porneia thus included any sort of sexual intercourse that is considered out-of-bounds, including such things as homosexuality, pedophilia, and promiscuity in addition to extramarital intercourse. The NT ideal of avoiding porneia is a continuation of OT sexual ethics. Along these lines, the “sexual immorality” (porneia) of a son having sex with his father’s wife is condemned in 1 Cor 5:1 (compare Lev 18:8).

    Derek R. Brown and E. Tod Twist, 1 Corinthians, eds. John D. Barry and Douglas Mangum, Lexham Bible Guide, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), 1 Co 5:9–13.

    22667 πορνεία, ας, ἡ (1) generally, of every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse fornication, sexual immorality, prostitution (1C 5.1); (2) when distinguished from adultery (μοιχεία) in the same context extramarital intercourse, sexual immorality, fornication (MT 15.19); (3) as a synonym for μοιχεία (marital) unfaithfulness, adultery (MT 5.32); (4) metaphorically, as apostasy from God through idolatry (spiritual) immorality, unfaithfulness (RV 19.2)

    Friberg’s Lexicon

  45. Gary says:

    Jay, you assume that committed same-sex marriages are porneia but that’s the question. I’ve never read of any same-sex marriages in first century Israel. Have you? Whatever Jesus had in mind when he used the word porneia we can be certain that he was not referring to same-sex marriages. If you mean that this issue is simple because the conservative position is so clearly true than, no, it’s not simple at all. What is clear and simple in my understanding is that God has so created us that it is not good to be alone and that we naturally want a suitable and appropriate life companion. For heterosexual Adam that was Eve. For gays and lesbians today it is necessarily a person of the same sex. If you truly believe God will reject gays for seeking what he has created us to yearn for in a spouse then we differ greatly on the nature of our God.

  46. Larry Cheek says:

    When you address the nature of God and attempt to synchronize it with your line of thinking. The proper method would entail to produce messages from God sanctioning your position rather than attempting to validate your concept by stating that God, Christ nor his followers did not condemn what you are trying to approve. Your method of validation is very flawed. Especially, because God’s inspired Words never promote your position.

  47. Gary says:

    Larry, could you direct me to passages in Scripture where God, Christ or Christ’s followers sanctioned divorce? If there aren’t any such passages in Scripture how can you possibly fellowship divorced Christians?

  48. Gary says:

    “In the Roman world, homosexual relations were invariably exploitative relations between men of quite contrasting social statures.” Kevin has made one of the most valuable contributions (seriously) to this entire discussion by sharing with us this quotation from Roy Ciampi in his Pillar series 1 Corinthians commentary.

    Jay and other conservatives would have us believe that committed same-sex marriages and relationships were so common in the first century that of course Paul had them in mind in his remarks in Scripture about homosexuality. But Roy Ciampi admits what the situation was. Committed longterm same-sex relationships of men of equal social standing were about as rare as was Christine Jorgenson’s sex change in the 1960’s. Whatever else we might know about Scripture and homosexuality we can be entirely confident that Paul did not have in mind in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 anything remotely similar to the gay marriages that just became legal nationwide in the US yesterday. Paul’s concept of homosexuality is revealed in detail in Romans 1 especially in vv. 19-21. As I’ve said before if you ever meet any homosexuals remotely similar to the ones Paul describes there run! When you take away pederasty, prostitution ,promiscuity and coercion (such as Roy Ciampi notes) there’s practically nothing left in first century Roman Empire homosexuality.

  49. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    We’ve covered this before. There were in fact same sex marriages in the First Century. Notoriously, a number of Caesars married men.

    Among the Romans, there were instances of same-sex marriages being performed, as evidenced by emperors Nero who married an unwilling young boy [19][20][21] and (possibly – though it is doubted by many historians) the child emperor Elagabalus,[22] who both supposedly married a man, and by its outlaw in 342 AD in the Theodosian Code,[23] but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex marriage in that culture exist.[24]

    In Hellenic Greece, the pederastic relationships between Greek men (erastes) and youths (eromenos) were similar to marriage in that the age of the youth was similar to the age at which women married (the mid-teens, though in some city states, as young as age seven), and the relationship could only be undertaken with the consent of the father.[citation needed] This consent, just as in the case of a daughter’s marriage, was contingent on the suitor’s social standing. The relationship consisted of very specific social and religious responsibilities and also had a sexual component. Unlike marriage, however, a pederastic relation was temporary and ended when the boy turned seventeen.

    At the same time, many of these relationships might be more clearly understood as mentoring relationships between adult men and young boys rather than an analog of marriage. This is particularly true in the case of Sparta, where the relationship was intended to further a young boy’s military training. While the relationship was generally lifelong and of profound emotional significance to the participants, it was not considered marriage by contemporary culture, and the relationship continued even after participants reached age 20 and married women, as was expected in the culture.[citation needed]

    Numerous examples of same sex unions among peers, not age-structured, are found in Ancient Greek writings. Famous Greek couples in same sex relationships include Harmodius and Aristogiton, Pelopidas and Epaminondas and Alexander and Bogoas. However in none of these same sex unions is the Greek word for “marriage” ever mentioned. The Romans appear to have been the first to perform same sex marriages.

    At least two of the Roman Emperors were in same-sex unions; and in fact, thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman Emperors held to be bisexual or exclusively homosexual.[25] The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who is reported to have married two other men on different occasions. First with one of his freedman, Pythagoras, to whom Nero took the role of the bride, and later as a groom Nero married a young boy to replace his young teenage concubine whom he had killed [26] named Sporus in a very public ceremony… with all the solemnities of matrimony, and lived with him as his spouse A friend gave the “bride” away “as required by law.” The marriage was celebrated separately in both Greece and Rome in extravagant public ceremonies.[27] The Child Emperor Elagabalus referred to his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria named Hierocles, as his husband.[28] He also married an athlete named Zoticus in a lavish public ceremony in Rome amidst the rejoicings of the citizens.[29]

    It should be noted, however, that conubium existed only between a civis Romanus and a civis Romana (that is, between a male Roman citizen and a female Roman citizen), so that a marriage between two Roman males (or with a slave) would have no legal standing in Roman law (apart, presumably, from the arbitrary will of the emperor in the two aforementioned cases).[30]

    Same-sex marriage was outlawed on December 16, 342 AD by the Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans. This law specifically outlaws marriages between men and reads as follows:

    When a man “marries” in the manner of a woman, a “woman” about to renounce men, what does he wish, when sex has lost its significance; when the crime is one which it is not profitable to know; when Venus is changed into another form; when love is sought and not found? We order the statutes to arise, the laws to be armed with an avenging sword, that those infamous persons who are now, or who hereafter may be, guilty may be subjected to exquisite punishment. (Theodosian Code 9.7.3) [31]

  50. Gary says:

    Yes, Jay, we have covered this before and I think you’ve forgotten that Nero’s same-sex marriages were in the decade after Romans and 1 Corinthians were written. So can we drop Nero? Also drawing on the ancient Greeks is not relevant either to Romans or 1 Corinthians as they were Roman cities in the Roman Empire. The Romans knowledge of Greek thought doesn’t prove that they were guided by it. The Romans never approved of same-sex marriages between citizens of equal social standing because they believed that submissive gay men were mentally ill. Roman law was never recodified to accomodate same-sex marriages- the wild antics of some of the Caesars notwithstanding. There evidently were a few Roman same-sex marriages between free citizens of equal social standing but they would have been few and far between and notorious and socially unacceptable. As I have said they would have been about as common as Christene Jorgenson’s sex change operation in the 1960’s.

    My asking you if you’ve ever read (even once?) of the existence of same-sex marriages in first century Israel is a valid question. You are really going out on a limb to suggest that Jesus had same-sex marriages in mind when he spoke in Aramaic of something translated as porneia in Greek. Can you back this up? Are there any reputable scholars or commentators who have advanced this idea? I don’t at all begrudge you your views on homosexuality that are different from mine. But I have to confess I am frequently amazed at how you seem to think that the conservative position on homosexuality that you espouse is so plainly true and obvious to all. Believe me it is not.

  51. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    In 1 Cor 5:1, Paul speaks of incest because a man “has” his step-mother. This likely refers to a marriage —

    The tense of Paul’s verb (ἔχειν, present infinitive) shows that the case is one of marriage or concubinage, not of a single incident.

    C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentary, (London: Continuum, 1968), 122.

    The ἔχειν implies a permanent union of some kind, but perhaps not a formal marriage: cf. John 4:18. Origen speaks of it as a marriage (γάμος), and ἔχω is used of marriage in 7:2; Matt. 14:4, etc. In the lowest classes of Roman society the legal line between marriage and concubinage was not sharply defined.

    Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, International Critical Commentary, (New York: T&T Clark, 1911), 96.

    Whether or not formally married, the language clearly implies a long-standing, committed relationship, not a one-night stand. But the long-standing commitment did not sanctify the relationship. In fact, if they were married, Paul is literally requiring a divorce to obtain forgiveness, because the sexual relationship is one that is not permitted — just as Ezra required the Jews in Judea to divorce their foreign wives, whom they’d married contrary to Torah.

    Obviously, God hates divorce, but his rejection of divorce doesn’t overcome his rejection of certain illicit sexual relationships, even when involving lifelong commitment. Hence, I don’t find in the scriptures a principle that marriage makes a sexual union otherwise prohibited in Lev 18 okay — except, of course, in those cases when the prohibition is expressly premised on the absence of marriage.

  52. Gary says:

    Jay, I agree in general with you that legal marriage does not necessarily make valid before God the union of two people not eligible to marry each other- as in 1 Corinthians 5.

    Where you lose me is your insistence on appealing to Leviticus 18 as applicable today. (And, no, it is not reaffirmed in my understanding in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6). Jay, maybe I’ve missed it, but I think you have never answered my repeated question of whether the abomination of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is applicable today. I assume you believe that it is not applicable today? If that is the case how can we know today what parts of the Law are applicable today? Should we at least begin teaching against tatoos since God explicitly banned them for his people? Should we start stoning rebellious children? Yes I’m getting absurd but absurdity is unavoidable once we start down the road of trying to bind even part of the Law of Moses today. Christianity that retains the Law of Moses as binding today is a very different Christianity from that which believes we have been freed from the Law. If you’re not going to explain where you’re coming from regarding the Law you should really stop citing Leviticus 18.

    Even if it could be proven that Leviticus 18 was binding on Christians today the prohibition only covers penetrative sexual acts and not, for example, such expressions of homosexual intimacy as intercrural sex. You’ve disagreed with this before but you have not cited a single instance of the application of Leviticus 18 in Judaism to sexual acts other than anal intercourse. The burden of proof is on you if you’re going to try to use Leviticus 18 to ban all physical expressions of homosexual love.

    In sum, you have a lot to prove to be able to credibly cite Leviticus 18 as prohibiting committed same-sex marriages today. I honestly believe it’s more than you or any conservative can prove.

  53. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    I’ve read the article by Dale Martin, but he hardly makes a convincing case. Martin admits, “I should be clear about my claims here. I am not claiming to know what arsenokoités meant, I am claiming that no one knows what it meant. I freely admit that it could have been taken as a reference to homosexual sex.”

    The last sentence by Martin should give anyone GREAT pause who would justify a particular lifestyle based on his writings.

    Think about it. In I Cor 6:9, Paul wrote the following:
    “Be not deceived…X…will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

    Whatever X is, it will keep us out of heaven. That is indisputable. (Clearly, this is referring to one who sins and keeps on sinning or X and keeps on X’ing, i.e. a lifestyle). This fact alone should generate caution. The last thing we should do is throw our hands up in surrender, proceed with our own desires, and hope for the best.

    It baffles that anyone would place their eternal soul in jeopardy by embracing the writings of one who quite candidly states, “I just don’t know what the term means, but it may, in fact, be homosexual sex.” Out of sight; out of mind is a poor hermeneutic, and “hope” is not a wise course of action.

    Jay, is exactly right. How would the Israel have understood Jesus? How would the Jewish Apostles have understood any of the terms in reference to sexual immorality?

    I fear we are treading on very dangerous ground: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Is 5:20)

  54. Gary says:

    Kevin, I know it may be hard to believe but I am completely convinced that I am acceptable before God as a gay man who has a wonderful husband. But what if I’m wrong? Doesn’t God’s grace cover all unintentional sin of Christians? What I’m suggesting is not presuming upon God’s grace. That would be the case only if I thought it was wrong. But I honestly don’t. After all, an excellent case can probably be made that most American Christians are actually living greedy lives. Does that mean they will all be lost?

  55. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Comments on ἀρσενοκοίτης in I Tim 1:10

    “ἀρσενοκοίτης is a compound of ἄρσην, “male” (continuing the alliteration of the list), and κοίτη, “bed” (cf. Luke 11:7, especially the marriage bed [Heb 13:4]). Its meaning has come under detailed discussion with philology (whether it refers to the act of a male sleeping with a male, or the attitude/condition of a same-sex orientation) and the appropriateness of the translation “homosexual” in light of its meaning today. The task is made difficult by the fact that ἀρσενοκοίτης is rare and does not appear to have existed before the time of Paul. D. S. Bailey argues that it refers just to the sex act with someone of the same sex (Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition [London: Longmans, Green, 1975]). J. Boswell says that it refers to “active male prostitutes,” arguing that the first half of the word (“male”) refers not to the object of the second half (“to sleep”, i.e., to sleep with males) but to the subject (i.e., a male who sleeps; Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality [Chicago: Chicago UP, 1980]). R. Scroggs says it refers to a male who uses an “effeminate call-boy” (The New Testament and Homosexuality [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983] 108; cf. also W. L. Petersen, “Can ΑΡΣΕΝΟΚΟΙΤΑΙ Be Translated by ‘Homosexual’? [1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10],” VC 40 [1986] 187–91). These positions are summarized and evaluated by D. F. Wright (“Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The Meaning of ΑΡΣΕΝΟΚΟΙΤΑΙ [1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10],” VC 38 [1984] 125–53), J. B. de Young (“The Source and NT Meaning of ARSENOKOITAI, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry,” Masters Seminary Journal 3.2 [1992] 191–215, who argues that Paul coined the word based on Lev 20:13 [ὃς ἂν κοιμηθῇ μετὰ ἄρσενος κοίτην γυναικός, “whoever sleeps with a man as in the bed of a woman”]), and R. B. Hays (“Relations Natural and Unnatural: A Response to John Boswell’s Exegesis of Romans 1,” JRE 14.1 [1986] 184–215). Wright especially argues that the evidence does not support Boswell’s conclusion, that Paul’s argument is based on the OT prohibition in Lev 18:22 and 20:13, and that the term should be understood generally to mean “homosexual,” including but not limited to the most common form in Greek culture, i.e., an adult male with a male teenager (παιδοφθορία, “pederasty”). BAGD defines ἀρσενοκοίτης as a “male homosexual” (109; cf. NASB; cf. Rom 1:27), or a man who has sexual relations with a young boy (pederast) or with animals (one who engages in bestiality). It occurs elsewhere in the NT only in 1 Cor 6:9–10 in a similar list of vices that includes πόρνος, “fornicator”: “Do you not know that the wicked [ἄδικοι] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral [πόρνοι] nor idolaters nor adulterers [μοιχοί] nor male prostitutes [μαλακοί] nor homosexual offenders [ἀρσενοκοῖται] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (NIV; the NRSV translates “male prostitutes, sodomites”; the RSV combines the last two in v 9 as “sexual perverts”). Whatever the specific meaning of ἀρσενοκοίτης in 1 Tim 1:10, it denotes a type of illicit sexual activity that breaks the seventh commandment. Fornication (H. Reisser, NIDNTT 1:498–99), homosexuality (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:27; 1 Cor 6:9; cf. Wis 14:26), and bestiality (Exod 22:19; Lev 18:23; 20:15; Deut 23:18; 27:21; bibliography in B. L. Eichler, IDB 5:97) are prohibited in the OT and NT, the latter two punishable by death in the OT. Hanson ([1983] 59) says there is evidence that homosexuality was especially common in Ephesus. For further study, see T. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995); bibliography in Oberlinner.”

    Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles. Vol. 46. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2000. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

  56. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    My argument is really quite simple.

    1. Jesus condemns porneia, as do Paul and the other NT authors.
    2. Porneia includes homosexual conduct.
    3. Therefore, Jesus condemns homosexual conduct.

    It’s a classic syllogism.

    To refute the argument, one must demonstrate that, contrary to the universal interpretation of every commentary, lexicon, etc. I can lay my hands on, porneia, as used by Jesus, in context, does not include homosexual conduct.

    Now, the identical argument appears every time a NT writer condemns porneia. And if Jesus was ignorant of same-sex marriage, Paul — who wrote decades later, worked daily with Gentiles, and spent most of his life outside of Judea, certainly was.

    So the argument that “Jesus never condemns homosexuality” is as flawed as the argument “Jesus never condemns incest.” Both are included in porneia.

    There are, of course, additional arguments due to Paul’s very explicit condemning of words usually translated as referring to homosexuality. And the debate sometimes shifts to just what those words mean. But those arguments ignore the larger argument that Jesus, Paul, etc. condemn sexual immorality, which doubtlessly in their minds included homosexuality.

    So what prohibitions of the Torah survive the cross? Well, plainly those included within porneia. I don’t have to know all the answers to know that much. And it is clear that Paul routinely looked to the Torah for moral guidance.

    (1Th 4:2-8 ESV) 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

    Paul surely expected to be understood by the church to which he was writing. He makes avoidance of porneia a central instruction. He defines it in contrast to prevailing Gentile attitudes, meaning that prevailing Jewish attitudes on this topic are approved.

    Paul sets out such “holiness” in striking contrast to the immorality of “the pagans,” who are described in a twofold way: as “living in passionate lust” because at the same time “they do not know God.” This contrast makes especially good sense if our understanding of Paul’s use of “vessel = male sexual organ” is correct. As pointed out earlier (on v. 3), the pagan world simply did not think of sexual promiscuity or indulgence as “wrongdoing.” Thus sexual immorality was not “immoral” to them. Therefore, to think like them on this matter, not to mention to live like them, means to live “in passionate lust” rather than in “holiness before God.” And the reason for such a view of sexual immorality lies with the fact that they simply “do not know God.” “Knowledge of God” from Paul’s biblical point of view assumes automatically knowledge of what it means to be created in the Creator’s own image, originally designed, and now redeemed, to bear God’s likeness in a world that does not know God. It therefore means to keep one’s sexual organ within the bonds of marriage and thus in a way that is holy before God.

    Gordon D. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 150.

    The following, from Beale and Carson, goes into great detail as to how Paul builds his argument for sexual purity on the Law and the Prophets, although he is writing to a predominately Gentile congregation.

    There is some debate over the background or determining influences of Paul’s exhortations in 4:1–12. Some believe that the apostle was impacted most by the Greco-Roman setting of his birthplace, Tarsus (Acts 22:3), and the Hellenistic culture that permeated the ancient world generally, and so they stress the parallels between his exhortations and those found in Cynic and Stoic thought (e.g., Malherbe 2000; Hock 1980: 44–47). A variety of factors, however, clearly indicate the apostle’s indebtedness in this passage to the OT and the Jewish moral tradition (so, e.g., Hodgson 1982: 199–215; Carras 1990: 306–15; Rosner 1995: 351–60; Collins 1998: 406–10, 414). This is suggested in a general way by Paul’s (1) threefold use of the verb “walk” (4:1 [2x], 12), a common OT and rabbinical term denoting moral conduct; (2) employment of the verb “receive” (4:1), which functions as a technical term in rabbinical writings for the transmission of traditional material; (3) call to “please God” (4:1) as the goal of human conduct, an idea rooted in the OT (see, e.g., Num. 23:27; 1 Kings 14:13; Job 34:9; Ps. 19:14; 69:31; 104:34; Prov. 15:26; 16:7; Mal. 3:4); (4) concern to make a good impression on those outside the community (4:12), an aspiration found throughout the OT (e.g., Exod. 32:12, 25; Num. 14:14–16; Deut. 9:25–29; 1 Kings 20:28). Paul’s indebtedness in this passage to the OT is seen in a more specific way, however: his emphasis on the theme of “holiness” in vv. 3–8, which is to be a defining characteristic of Israel as God’s covenant people, and his allusions to the OT in vv. 5, 6, 8b, and 9.
    The theme of “holiness” (hagiasmos) is an OT concept that Paul stresses in 4:3–8. The importance of this concept for the apostle is indicated by his identification of it as the will of God (4:3) and his inclusion of it as the key statement that introduces his discussion of sexual conduct. Its importance is further suggested by the two additional references to “holiness” in the following verses (4:4, 7) and by the closing description of God’s Spirit where the unusual word order emphasizes his “holy” character (4:8). The holiness theme is also foreshadowed by Paul in the prayer of 3:13, where he calls upon the Lord to strengthen the hearts of the Thessalonians such that they may be “blameless in holiness” when Jesus comes again “with all his holy ones.” The apostle’s emphasis on holiness manifests itself finally in his deliberate expansion of the closing peace benediction of 5:23, where, instead of the simple and expected formula “May the God of peace be with you” (see Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9b), Paul writes, “May the God of peace himself make you holy through and through; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    This persistent emphasis on holiness reveals an important truth about the theological perspective from which Paul views the Thessalonian believers and issues his exhortations to them (Weima 1996, esp. 101–3). Holiness was the attribute by which Israel, God’s covenant people, was to be distinguished from all other nations. This is explicitly stated by God when he constitutes the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai as his chosen covenant people: “You will be to me a distinctive people out of all the nations.… You will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:5–6 LXX). This divine command for Israel to let holiness be the distinguishing feature of its existence is repeated in the renewal of the Sinai covenant: “And the Lord has chosen you today that you may be to him a distinctive people … in order that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God” (Deut. 26:18–19 LXX). Likewise, the book of Leviticus repeatedly calls on the people of Israel to imitate the holiness of their God: “You shall be sanctified/made holy and you shall be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 11:44 LXX [cf. 11:45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 22:32]).
    The basic concept associated with this call to holiness is that of “separation”—that is, the need for Israel to “come out” and be “distinct” from the surrounding peoples (Snaith 1944: 24–32). Thus holiness is the boundary marker that separates God’s people from all other nations: “I am the Lord your God who has separated you from all the nations. You shall therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean.… And you will be holy to me, because I, the Lord your God, am holy, the one who separated you from all the nations to be mine” (Lev. 20:24–26 LXX).
    Any first-century Jew would have been familiar with all of this, since Lev. 17–26 (the so-called Holiness Code), where God’s call to holiness is clearly set forth, was well known among Jews in both Palestine and the Diaspora (Hodgson 1982: 199–215). Paul certainly was familiar with the material in Lev. 17–26, since he had been an active member of the Pharisees, a Jewish movement whose name, “the separated ones” (Gk. Pharisaioi comes from the Aram./Heb. prš, meaning “separate, make distinct”), reflected their desire to distance themselves from other Jews who did not share their passion for following the Torah’s call to holiness. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that Paul viewed holiness as God’s desired purpose for and defining characteristic of Israel, his covenant people.
    What is surprising, however, even astonishing, is that Paul applies this standard of holiness to predominantly Gentile believers in Jesus at Thessalonica. The holiness that previously has been the exclusive privilege and calling of Israel has now also become God’s purpose for Gentiles at Thessalonica who have “turned to God from idols to serve the true and living God” (1:9). The holiness that previously has been the characteristic that distinguished Israel from the Gentile nations has now become the boundary marker that separates the Thessalonian Gentile believers from “the Gentiles who do not know God” (4:5), those who are “outside” God’s holy people (4:12). Paul, it seems clear, views his Gentile converts at Thessalonica as the renewed Israel—those who, together with Jewish Christians, are now full members of God’s covenant people. And on the basis of their privileged new position, he exhorts them in 4:3–8 to exhibit the holiness that God’s people have always been called to possess.

    In contrasting the sexual conduct of the Thessalonian believers with that of their unbelieving fellow citizens, Paul identifies the latter group as “the Gentiles who do not know God” (ta ethnē ta mē eidota ton theon). This expression, used in the apostle’s other letters as well (Gal. 4:8–9; 2 Thess. 1:8; cf. 1 Cor. 1:21), likely stems from the OT (Job 18:21; Ps. 79:6 [78:6 LXX]; Jer. 10:25) and serves to root immoral sexual conduct in ignorance about God (so also Rom. 1:24–27; cf. Wis. 14:12, 22–26; Sib. Or. 3:29–45). The phrase “the Gentiles who do not know God” also immediately places this verse in a covenant context, for “to know God” is a technical reference in the OT, especially in Jeremiah (see Jer. 31:34), to the covenant relationship (Deidun 1981: 19n61). Paul’s placement of the Thessalonian Christians, themselves Gentiles, in sharp antithesis to “the Gentiles who do not know God” is striking and incomprehensible unless the apostle views these converts no longer as Gentiles but rather now as full members of God’s covenant people. His use of this OT phrase, therefore, provides additional support to two principal claims made above. First, it shows that Paul perceives the Gentile believers at Thessalonica to be members of the renewed Israel, the covenant people of God. Second, it illustrates once again that Paul viewed holiness—here specifically holiness in sexual conduct—as the distinguishing sign or boundary marker of believers that sharply separates them from the world, from “those who do not know God.”

    The exhortations to holiness in 4:3–6a are followed in 4:6b–8 by three causal statements (4:6b: dioti [“because”]; 4:7: gar [“for”]; 4:8: toigaroun [“therefore”]) that provide the reasons why the Thessalonian converts must be holy with regard to their sexual conduct. The first of these causal statements comes in 4:6b: “because the Lord is an avenger concerning all these things” (dioti ekdikos kyrios peri pantōn toutōn). These words likely allude to Ps. 93:1 LXX (94:1 MT/ET): “The Lord is a God of vengeance” (theos ekdikēseōn kyrios). This possibility is strengthened by the fact that the predicate nominative in both 1 Thess. 4:6b and Ps. 93:1 is located at the head of the sentence in the position of emphasis. The theme of God as a judge who exacts vengeance is widely found in the OT (e.g., Exod. 7:4; 12:12; Deut. 32:35; Ps. 18:47; Jer. 11:20; Amos 3:2, 14; Mic. 5:15; Nah. 1:2) and appears also in the intertestamental literature (e.g., T. Reub. 6:6; T. Levi 18:1; T. Gad 6:7; T. Jos. 20:1; T. Benj. 10:8–10; Jos. Asen. 23:13).

    The third reason (the first and second reasons are given in 4:6b, 7) why holiness ought to be a distinctive characteristic of the Thessalonians’ sexual conduct is that “the one who rejects these exhortations rejects not a human being but God, who indeed gives his Spirit, who is holy, to you.” Here Paul picks up the language of the OT prophets, especially Ezek. 36:27; 37:14, about the blessed presence of God’s Spirit in the messianic age—language associated with the “new” or “everlasting” covenant—and applies it to the Thessalonian believers (see Deidun 1981: 19, 53–56; Thielman 1994: 76–77; Weima 1996: 110–12).
    Jews of the first century were painfully aware that their nation was not living according to the standard of holiness that God had called for when he first established his covenant with them. However, most Jews also believed, on the basis of God’s promise given through the prophets, that he would not abandon his people, but would restore their holiness by pouring out his Spirit upon them as part of the covenant blessings to be enjoyed in the messianic era. This eschatological hope for holiness, made possible through the presence of God’s Spirit, is most clearly seen in Ezek. 36:25–27 LXX: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be purged from all your uncleannesses and from all your idols, and I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and will put a new spirit in you [pneuma kainon dōsō en hymin]; and I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you [to pneuma mou dōsō en hymin] and will cause you to walk in my commands and to keep my judgments and do them” (cf. Ezek. 11:19).
    The gift of God’s Spirit as a key blessing of the eschatological age is also stressed in Ezek. 37:6, 14: “I will put my Spirit into you” (dōsō pneuma mou eis hymas). And although other prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah do not highlight the gift of God’s Spirit quite as explicitly as Ezekiel does (but see Isa. 59:21), they do hold out the future hope of a “new” or “everlasting” covenant in which God will live in and among his people in such an intimate way that they will be able to obey his commands and live holy lives (see, e.g., Jer. 31:31–34 [38:31–34 LXX]; 32:40; 50:5; Isa. 55:3; 59:21).
    Paul takes this new covenant language, which articulates the eschatological hope of the Jewish people, and applies it to Gentile Christians at Thessalonica. The parallels with Ezek. 36:25–27 are especially striking. For as Ezekiel prophesied (“You will be clean from all your uncleannesses” [36:25]), God has cleansed the Thessalonian believers from their “uncleanness/impurity” (4:7), so that their sexual conduct now is to be controlled by “holiness” (4:3, 4, 7). And as Ezekiel prophesied (“I will cleanse you from all your idols” [36:25]), God has cleansed Paul’s converts at Thessalonica from their idolatry, with the result that they “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1:9). Likewise, as Ezekiel prophesied (“I will cause you to walk in my commands, and to keep my judgments and do them” [36:27]), God has enabled Gentile Christians at Thessalonica to “walk” (peripateō) according to his commands (4:1 [2x], 12). But most significantly, as Ezekiel prophesied (“I will put my Spirit in you,” [36:27; cf. 37:6, 14]), Paul can now say to Gentile believers at Thessalonica that God is the one “who indeed gives his Spirit, who is holy, to you” (4:8).
    That Paul did, in fact, quite consciously have in mind the eschatological age envisioned by Ezekiel can be seen in his description of God giving his Spirit “into you” (eis hymas). For although this expression is somewhat awkward (the more natural and expected expression is the dative en hymin [“in you”]), it echoes exactly the words of Ezekiel: “I will put my Spirit into you [eis hymas]” (37:6, 14 LXX). But whereas for Ezekiel and others in Judaism the gift of God’s Spirit was only a future hope (“I will give my Spirit”), for Paul it had become a present and ongoing reality, as indicated by the present tense of the participle didonta.
    It seems clear, therefore, that Paul viewed the conversion of Gentiles at Thessalonica as a fulfillment of the eschatological promises made to Israel. The Thessalonian believers were no longer simply “Gentiles who do not know God”; now they were members of the renewed Israel, the covenant people of God. This privileged status meant that in their sexual conduct they must observe the boundaries of holiness that the new covenant marked out for them. The key to living such lives of holiness is the present and ongoing presence of God’s Spirit. So here, as elsewhere in Paul’s letters, the Holy Spirit is the power that enables believers to live holy lives.

    G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 875–879.

    And so, yes, Paul sees the Torah’s teachings on sexual ethics as essentially the very definition of porneia. And I can’t imagine how Jesus could have condemned porneia when speaking to his disciples and expected to have been understood in any other terms. If they weren’t to hear the Torah’s sexual ethics in Jesus’ words, where were they to find a definition? In 21st Century Post-modern radical individualism?

    Now, the counter-argument, which you’ve made more than once, is to point to sexual commands in the Torah that we don’t wish to follow any more — but even should that argue prevail, you leave us with nowhere to go to find a sexual ethic that’s actually based on the Bible.

    My own hermeneutical learning is that Jesus and Paul build their teachings on two main principles (and I’m simplifying): Love your neighbor and Genesis 2’s definition of an ideal sexual relationship.

    To that, we need to add the Torah as commentary on both “Love your neighbor” and Genesis 2. Hence, incest is sinful because it violates both principles — even though you and I could both easily imagine cases where it violates neither. I mean, if the couple is infertile, there is no risk of passing down recessive genetic flaws. But incest is prohibited, I think, more to protect the family so that families may live together is very close proximity without fear of a brother or cousin having sex. It’s to allow a family to live together as family. That is, it’s a rule God gives us in recognition that society must be made up of families who allow men and women to share space without fear of sexual violations.

    Deu 24 speaks to wife swapping, I believe. It prohibits remarrying a woman you’ve divorced who has now married another man. I think it’s binding today, myself. I don’t know why not. Is there an argument that it’s okay to give your wife to another man and then take her back, sanctifying the exchange through formal divorces? I don’t see it.

    It’s easy to raise hard questions, but your arguments are on the order of: “You can’t explain baptism for the dead; therefore, I can marry another man.” It’s as though I have to know ALL the answers to know ANY of the answers.

    Well, I don’t know ALL the answers. But I know some of them. And I’ve written entire series here on how I read the continuing impact of the Torah on Christians. If you disagree, then offer your own hermeneutic. Anyone can raise hard cases. But you’ve not really made your point until you’ve offered your own alternative.

    How does Torah impact the modern church today?

    If your argument is “Not at all,” then you have to deal with Paul’s and Jesus’ repeated insistence on parts of the Torah as well as Paul’s theology of the Torah expressed in Rom and Gal.
    If your argument is “Only certain parts,” then what parts and where does the Bible draw that line?

    Now, I’d like to avoid a 20-post series on the question, but in very simplistic form, here’s my understanding:

    1. The sacrificial practices of the Torah are moot because they’ve been accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross. This is true even of non-atoning sacrifices, because Jesus returned in AD 70 and destroyed the Temple, which is just as much a revelation of God’s will as God giving the Spirit to Cornelius.

    2. The boundary-marker elements of the Torah are gone because God has invited the Gentiles into Israel. Thus, Sabbaths, kosher, festivals, etc. are no longer binding because these were ways of separating Jews from Gentiles.

    3. The civil laws are gone because Israel is no longer a nation-state. The Kingdom is not of this world. Hence, detailed rules regarding trials and such no longer apply. However, the principle that the accused must be accorded justice remains because justice is a central attribute of God. Therefore, the rule that we only accuse based on the testimony of two or three witnesses holds within the church, as does the rule that accusations must be thoroughly investigated before anyone is punished. This is about being like God: just.

    4. Laws against the pagan practices of surrounding nations are largely mooted because those actions no longer carry pagan connotations. Hence, we may mix wool with linen and boil meat in milk.

    5. The moral laws remain in force — and we’ve been instructed to evaluate what is “moral” in terms of larger principles, such as “Love your neighbor” and Genesis 2. Even so, we see in the case of incest, for example, that sometimes a behavior is sinful because, over time, the impact of allowing that behavior will tear down Christian households and churches. Hence, incest is sinful even when there is no risk of child-bearing and the couple no longer live with the rest of their family. Fallen humans rationalize and push boundaries, and we cannot risk a breakdown of family if we start making exceptions for incest in certain very limited cases. Therefore, Paul condemns incest PERIOD without asking about how the relationship began or how consensual it might be. The ban on incest is essential to the integrity of family, and we are not allowed to look for loopholes.

    We should also realize that Torah, Jesus, and Paul are far more about community than individualism, and the actualizing the Kingdom rather than the individual. It’s about cross-carrying and sacrifice. It’s about being holy because God is holy. If we approach morality in terms of personal fulfillment and happiness, well, we’ve not really read the Gospels very closely. We can’t take a Pollyannish approach to Christianity.

    (1Pe 4:1-2 ESV) Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

    Now, the impact of the Torah on the modern church is a challenging topic — so challenging that even the apostles had to hold a conference to determine whether Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. But the fact that’s it’s difficult doesn’t mean that some parts aren’t incredibly clear. And one very clear part is the continuing prohibition on porneia. We might disagree on 500 other questions, but we’ve been given this answer very directly and plainly.

  57. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    That sounds very laissez faire to me. I didn’t read any postscripts in Paul’s 1 Cor list or Decalogue that says, “…you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, unless of course, you did it ignorantly.” Presumptuous in my opinion given the biblical evidence and the admissions of Martin.

  58. Gary says:

    Jay, thanks for setting forth your understanding of the relevance of the Torah for us today. I actually agree with a lot of what you have written. Where we part company of course is on porneia. I sincerely do not believe that porneia includes committed homosexual relationships and marriages. Jesus would have had no experience with people in such relationships in first century Israel because they weren’t there. So to try to make Jesus speak on homosexuality is a huge stretch that I can’t buy. You are taking your stand on the lexicons. Please reread my previous comments on lexicons. Even Danker warned against viewing them as authoritative. I think we both know that lexicons will change in this century as to whether same-sex marriages are porneia. The lexicons are wrong on this issue at this time in my opinion. To take the question, for example, of the correct interpretation of malakos and arsenokoites Dale Martin gives more solid evidence of the possible range of their meanings than any lexicon that has been quoted here. I’m not anti-lexicons. I’m sure they’re right far more often than they’re wrong. But they’re not inspired and they’re certainly not inerrant. You realize I’m sure that lexicons have changed before and they will change again. They will convince on this subject only those already committed to the conservative position.

  59. Monty says:

    Gary’s argument is basically, ” I refuse to accept that what I practice, is wrong.” That there is nothing Biblically and nothing based in conservative Biblical scholarship that applies directly to his “special circumstance”, that God (through silence) is good with him being a practicing homosexual-in or out of a state decided marriage(it doesn’t matter).

    Gary, you make a mockery of everything written about how evil that act is and therefore you are like those “Isaiah spoke about in Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Then your “ace in the whole” is that if you are wrong that you don’t know you are wrong and therefore God will forgive your sin. You take Jay’s argument about instrumental worship and turn it on it’s head. The only problem is God had been quite clear on what constitutes acceptable sexual
    practice. But you shake your fist in God’s face and refuse to acknowledge it applies to you.

    Gary, confidently takes his stand, not with scripture, nor with universally accepted conservative scholarship down through the ages, but with the Greeks who “knew a thing or two about same sex love” , not with old fuddy dud Paul, and not with Jesus but with the Roman emperors(wow) who were anything but good and decent individuals, but in most cases a bunch of sick puppies.

    Nothing anyone can say is going to avail in Gary’s case because it appears his conscience has been seared. He even, time and again, blames his issues on God. “If you truly believe God will reject gays for seeking what he has created us to yearn for in a spouse then we differ greatly on the nature of our God.” If you truly believe God made you a certain way, then God is at fault. The next thing coming in the changing winds is – God made pedophiles the way they are, so, God is good with them, too!

  60. Gary says:

    Monty, there is a huge distinction between pederasty and homosexuality. Children are incapable of giving an informed consent to a sexual relationship with an adult. Therefore sex between an adult and a child is akin to rape. In our legal system we call it statutory rape. So pederasty is terribly unjust.

    In contrast, there is nothing unjust about a committed homosexual relationship or marriage between two adults in the absence of coercion. Another word for injustice is sin. In the absence of injustice there is no sin. Sin is relational. If no one is being treated unjustly no sin is being committed.

    By the way, when you vent your considerable anger against gays and make such statements that we are equivalent to pederasts you do more to promote the acceptance of homosexuality in our society than anything I or gay activists might do. Where conservatives are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen is not so much with gays, who after all are a small minority, but moreso with fairminded straight folks. They hear such accusations and instinctively know that they are false and extremist. So they become supportive of homosexuality and homosexuals as being preferable to what they see as a conservatism that promotes hatred.

  61. Gary says:

    Jay, an aspect of the concept of porneia or sinful sexual acts and relationships that is important to remember is that it has changed through the centuries. There is no one single all-encompassing definition of what is forbidden for God’s people at all times in all places. Another way of saying that is that God has changed in what he allows or forbids sexually for his people.

    Scripture has a number of examples of this. I believe Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister. That was acceptable to God but God then forbade such marriages in the Law of Moses. Jacob’s marriage to two sisters seems to have been providentially arranged by God. Yet God forbade such marriages in the Law of Moses.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t believe an OT Jewish husband could be guilty of unfaithfulness against his wife. If he committed adultery the sin was against the husband of the woman with whom he had sex or, if she was unmarried, against her father. His own wife had no rights sexually that her husband was bound to observe. Of course the teaching of Jesus put husbands and wives on an equal footing regarding adultery.

    Even prostitutes seem to have been allowed to OT Jewish men as long as they were not under the authority of a husband or father or male relative. This was especially true if the prostitute was not Jewish. The story of Judah and Tamar seems to indicate that Judah was accustomed to purchasing the services of prostitutes. No guilt is ascribed to Judah for this in the narrative.

    Christians differ today over whether polygamy and concubinage are forbidden or not. Certainly there is no specific change noted in Scripture. It is hard to believe, for example, that not a single Jewish polygamist was among the 3,000 baptized on Pentecost in Acts 2. Yet it apparently was not a matter of concern in the early Jewish church. After the de facto division between Jewish and Gentile Christianity that accelerated with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 the mainstream Gentile church would not have allowed polygamy. Yet traces of it come up across the centuries in unusual circumstances. Melancthon, the great Lutheran theologian, suggested it as a preferable alternative for King Henry Vlll compared to his serial divorcing (or murdering) and remarrying. I believe today it could be considered legitimate, for example, when one’s spouse is in a coma for many years. Many Christians are aghast at that thought but the expectations of longterm celibacy cannot be attributed to anything in Scripture.

    When it comes to homosexuality we simply have no word from God that would forbid committed same-sex marriages and relationships. Such were never envisioned as a possibility in the first century by the authors of Scripture just as the universal illegality of slavery could not be envisioned in the first century. We have ample proof of this in Paul’s own words in Romans 1. He describes the homosexuals he has in mind and they bear no resemblance at all to those entering in to gay martiages. Plus Paul limits his seeming condemnation of homosexuality to those who exchange or give up their heterosexuality for homosexuality. That simply does not fit with homosexual orientations that are firmly in place by puberty.

    If Scripture is truly our guide we will never require lifelong celibacy of any group. Genesis 2:18 forbids that result. Celibacy in Scripture is always a voluntary choice. It is never imposed on anyone. When our definition of porneia ends up with the requirement of celibacy for millions of people then we know we made a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

  62. Gary says:

    Luke Timothy Johnson in his book The Living Gospel has a thought-provoking discussion (around pp.60ff) of how homosexuality could be porneia in the first century but not porneia in our modern context. Agree or disagree his reasoning is worth considering by anyone interested in whether homosexuality today is forbidden as porneia. Remember that the concept of porneia (or forbidden expressions of sexuality) has changed over time even within Scripture.

  63. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    You are right that sexual standards have changed during scriptural times. You give some excellent examples, although I’d disagree on the Judah/Tamar example. I don’t think that account tells us that prostitution was approved. But I take your point.

    The word for harlot in verses 21, 22 suggests that Tamar posed as a cult-prostitute, perhaps to make doubly sure of her victim.

    Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale OTC 1; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1967), n.p.

    Notice, however, that the rules consistently became stricter. Incest was more broadly defined. Polygamy was certainly frowned on by the First Century. I think a good case can be made that the NT forbids the practice —

    (Mat 19:4-6 ESV) 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    (1Co 7:2-4 ESV) 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

    (Eph 5:25-33 ESV) 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

    It’s hard to see how these passages could be applied in a polygamous environment. How can husbands have multiple wives and yet treat their wives as Christ treats the church? So I find monogamy to be a NT teaching. If so, then we again see the rules being tightened over time.

    This is all consistent with a view of God revealing himself more and more through scripture. As revelation unfolds, we learn more and more of his will.

    But you give no example of a sexual practice that was once forbidden being approved in later times. There is one exception that comes to mind: the marriage of Jews to foreigners was forbidden by the Torah (Deu 7:1-3). But Paul applies the rule as though the church were Israel and the world were “the nations,” and so he insists on marriage only “in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39; 2 Cor 6:14). This isn’t a repeal of the law but an application of the old law to a new reality in Christ.

    So, yes, sexual ethics have changed — they’ve been made stricter and, where the gospel has redefined terms, so that Israel has become the church, for example, the rules apply to the new realities.

    Is there room within this rubric to discuss the impact of the gospel on homosexual relations? Absolutely. The gospel changes things. But as we see in the case of marriage to foreigners, the old rule applies but the meaning of “nations” is redefined. The underlying principle of Deu 7 is that marrying someone who does not worship the Lord will lead to idolatry — and this remains true.

    So I don’t see how this changes the question of homosexual marriage, but I admit that an analysis is required.

  64. Gary says:

    Jay, thanks for your thoughtful response. I’m not adamant about the Tamar narrative proving that prostitutes were allowed for Jewish men. But it certainly raises the possibility.

    I see your point about many restrictions on sexuality becoming stricter. There’s one huge exception, however. That’s the change almost across the board among Protestantism in the West in the last half century or so on divorce and remarriage. I understand the prevailing approach now that is based on 1 Corinthians 7 and have taught it myself in the past. But it is a new understanding of divorce and remarriage in Christian history from everything we can know. Practically every second century church father whose views on remarriage after divorce have survived was far, far more restrictive than what is now taught. You’re probably aware that the prevailing view in the second century church was that any remarriage after either divorce or the death of the first spouse constituted adultery. Christians were allowed one marriage for life. This may not have been the unanimous teaching but, from my reading, it sure seems to have been the majority position. I can’t find any time in church history when the present approach was shared by any significant portion of the church.

    I understand of course that we are not bound by church history but by the teaching of the Apostles in the New Testament. Still it does have to make you wonder. What has happened in the last half century is that the reality of millions of people who would have effectively been consigned to celibacy under the traditional approach prompted a reconsideration of Scripture on the subject. That cannot seriously be denied. If divorce and remarriage had remained as rare as it was in the 19th century we would not have changed our teaching on divorce and remarriage. That doesn’t mean that our present teaching is specious or false or insincere. But it does mean that the reality of the human condition allowed us to understand Scripture in a less restrictive way, a way that is new in 2,000 years of church history.

    Same-sex marriage is exactly analogous. A new way, a less restrictive way, of reading Scripture on committed same-sex marriages and relationships is possible. If this new interpretation is not accepted the church will be in the same boat we were in forty years ago in expecting millions of people to live celibate lives or be without hope of salvation. This doesn’t mean that the new less restrictive view of Scripture and homosexuality is specious or false or insincere. In fact it makes perfect sense to a whole lot of very intelligent biblical scholars and committed Christians. Take Greg Sterling, for example, a Church of Christ minister and scholar who taught at Notre Dame for many years and is now Dean of Yale Divinity School. He supports marriage equality. You might disagree strongly with him but he can’t be dismissed as an intellectual slouch. This new understanding of Scripture is new I admit in 2,000 years of church history but no more so than the now prevailing teaching on divorce and remarriage. As the future unfolds it simply will not be possible for the church to be progressive on divorce and remarriage but completely restrictive on homosexual love. The discrepancy is just too great and too glaring for the present situation among Evangelicals and Churches of Christ to continue unchanged.

  65. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Your original thesis was that we see shifting of sexual ethics in the scriptures. I agreed, but pointed out that the shifting was to ever-stricter standards.

    You now point out that the church (as a whole) has liberalized its views on MDR. But this is not a shift within the scriptures. Rather, it’s a post-scriptural shift by the church. These are two very different things.

    In the case of MDR, many have taken a less restrictive interpretation of the text, seeking to honor the text while correctly interpreting it. Others have chosen to entirely ignore the text. Obviously, I have no interest in the “ignore the text” position. I have written extensively on the interpretation of the relevant texts.

    So, sure, sometimes the ECFs were mistaken. MDR is hardly the only example. But I’m not arguing against Christian homosexual marriage based on the ECFs. Some do like to point out the uninterrupted position of the church for 2,000 years. That is not irrelevant, but it’s not even close to being the core argument. It’s really about the scriptural text itself.

    I’m in the process of reading through Vines’ book, as well as Richard Hays’ recent book on NT Ethics, which deals extensively with the hermeneutics of homosexuality in very technical detail. I’ve always believed in studying both sides of the question from the advocates for both sides. I don’t know a fairer way to approach the study.

  66. Gary says:

    Jay, excuse my ignorance but what is ECF?

  67. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    ECF = Early Church Fathers

  68. Gary says:

    Jay, sorry for the confusion. My thesis as I intended it was that the concept of porneia as forbidden sexual acts and relationships has been a fluid one over the years. I cited the examples in Scripture to show that even God himself has changed at times as to what constitutes porneia. The other way the meaning of porneia has changed, of course, is in our understanding of Scripture. Since we have no inspired interpreter of Scripture in Protestantism the effect of our changes in interpretation and understanding of Scripture can be dramatic over time.

    Jay, you are an intelligent and astute student of Scripture in my view. Like me you can be quite stubborn at times but you are also always fair and I appreciate that greatly. I sense that you would like to be able to accept same-sex marriages as accepted by God if you could only reconcile them with your understanding of Scripture. I respect that. I didn’t come to my present understanding overnight and if it had not been for the long period of wanting to die I probably would not have been open to seeing the relevant scriptures in a new light. The more I study this subject the more I believe the traditional position is wrong but I still recognize that I’m the one who could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time! Thank you for allowing me to participate in these discussions and please know it is not my intent to frustrate you with my many and long comments on this subject.

  69. Larry Cheek says:

    You really wanted to die because you were drawn to men? Was that prior to experiments with men? Was it because you were attracted and were certain that the action was sinful or was it because you felt guilty from what you had been taught? I ask these questions because it may help others see the work around that changed your life. Could even be a decision maker for others.

  70. Gary says:

    Larry, before I ever acted on my homosexual orientation I fell into a longterm depression that became so bad that I wanted to die. I prayed many times that I would die in my sleep at night. I drew the line at committing suicide because I knew that children of a parent who commit suicide are about four times more likely to commit suicide themselves than they would otherwise be. My depression was not specifically about my homosexuality. For a number of reasons I could see no future in my life worth living for. It was during that time of severe depression that I acted on my homosexual orientation for the first time in my life at the age of 52. I was of course overwhelmed with guilt but, quite unexpectedly, I started wanting to live again. I’m not at all saying that that made it right because I was committing adultery. I’m just describing what happened. That led to almost two years of extreme promiscuity punctuated by many attempts to stop. What helped me to stop living promiscuously was meeting a wonderful gay man who became my partner and is now my husband. I still often think that it would have been better if God had taken my life because of the terrible pain I caused so many and especially my former wife. I still feel instinctively that I deserve to die because of what I did. But for whatever reason God has seen fit to prolong my life. So I am making the best life I can now trying to be a disciple of Jesus by helping others in a generally poor area that I now live in. I can’t make sense of the course of my life but I am certain that my former life was unsustainable for me and could not have continued indefinitely. Again that doesn’t make what I did right. But it is the reality that I now have to find a way to live with.

  71. Monty says:


    I have no hatred for you whatsoever. I am commanded to love you. You are commanded to love me. I don’t like your ideas that God is good with committed homosexual sex. You might as well say, “God is good with people shacking up in straight sex commitments.” I don’t think you are OK with that, are you? Maybe you are. Maybe you see your situation as having a same sex husband as superior to a hetero couple shacking up? If so, I don’t know where you reach that conclusion from. Paul said, “let every man have his own wife,” not his own significant other of the same sex and call that person a wife. I don’t like your views based on my understanding of what scripture teaches. You obviously disagree with my views. Should I call you a hater because you disagree with me? That’s the problem with the Gay community, if you don’t agree, you are a hater. It’s a mantra that is blowing up everywhere in the public forum. Go to any website and find an article about Gay marriage and look at the comments and anyone who takes a view against it is immediately crucified as a hate monger. It’s the strategy at large, and it seems to be working. Intimidate by name calling.

    This is a open forum to discuss what the scriptures teach. Your view is as radical as there is. If you were an alcoholic I would disagree with you in the strongest sense(but not hatefully) if you tried to say that “God is OK with being a drunk as a lifestyle” without any attempt at renouncing your sin. I would do so with an attempt at reasoning the scriptures with you. But what to do with someone who refuses to accept what the scriptures teach? What to do with the guy who says, “God is good with him being a drunk? A fornicator? A liar? I know what the scripture says to do. Aren’t we supposed to shun the erring brother? Is that hatred Gary? Is God a hater? Did God hate the man who had his father’s wife when Paul instructed the church to in essence boot him out? Was Paul a hater? I think according to modern cultural strategy, Paul would be a hater, and so would God. But nothing could be further from the truth. The best friend you will ever have is someone who will share with you the truth, even if it goes against your feelings. Gary, your purpose in being here seems(I could be wrong) is not to reason together, but to attempt to legitimize your lifestyle. I won’t help you do that. You need someone who will shoot straight with you, in a loving manner. I don’t claim to be that person. But if you find someone who will, he will be your best friend ever.

  72. Dwight says:

    Gary, it is amazing how you apply human reasoning to the scriptures. Even though incest, adultery, child sex, bestiality, homosexuality were all condemned together you seem to conveinenlty seperate them and in particular homosexuality comes out clean. This is what I don’t get. How you can condemn the others, while not condemning yoruself? If The OT law doesn’t apply to homosexualty, then it doens’t alpply to all of these others as well for the same reasons. And Jay is correct…the term for sexuali immorality in the NT…porneia or fornication, was meant to cover all of the sins listed as sexually immoral in the Law. This was so well applied that homosexuality was not seen as well as the other sins of adultery in the Jewish society, unlike the Greek and Roman and gentile societies. It homosexuality was someohow exempt from the concept of porneia, then so were the other sins of sexual immorality.
    In regards to Tamar, she played the harlot, but wasn’t technically one. She never said she was a harlot and was assumed to be one by Judah, he had relations with her, but she had never had a previous relationship and never did after as well, and she is only to have said “to play the harlot”. A harlot was one who had relations with many others for pay, but Tamar only had one relationship and returned the payment to the owner. True what she did was deceptive, but she was promised a son from the lineage of Judah by Judah himself, thus she fulfilled her covenant of what was promised her.

  73. Gary says:

    Dwight, I know of no other way to learn from Scripture than to apply human reasoning to it. Barring special revelation from God what else is there? Homosexuality in its common manifestations (pederasty, prostitution, promiscuity and coercion or coercive relationships such as masters and slaves) obviously were and still are porneia and are forbidden for God’s people just as those practises are also porneia heterosexually. I don’t believe committed same-sex marriages and relationships constitute porneia. That’s what this discussion is about. Obviously we disagree on this point.

    Regarding Tamar, my point was not of course that Tamar was actually a prostitute but rather that the Tamar suggests that Judah was accustomed to purchasing the services of prostitutes. I think you have to admit it’s more than a little strange- not exactly what one would teach in a children’s Sunday School class.

  74. Gary says:

    Monty, I know that you are not a hater from our many exchanges on One in Jesus. But you unintentionally strayed into what could be considered hate speech when you equated practising homosexuals with pederasts. If you didn’t exactly equate the two you sure came close. Please think long and hard before you make such comparisons. It’s not rational to compare as even being similar child rape (which all child sexual abuse is legally) and two adults of the same sex sharing their lives together as spouses. While you are a Christian and, I have no doubt, would only act toward anyone out of Christian love someone else could take the idea of homosexuals being no better than child abusers and hurt or even kill homosexuals. Most people think child abusers deserve whatever they get. So when you suggest that the two are morally the same you may contribute to a way of thinking that ends up with homosexuals being considered as deserving whatever happens to them. With all the senseless acts of violence in our society we all need to watch our language so that we don’t contribute to an ongoing culture of violence.

  75. Gary says:

    Monty, you raise the question of the legitimacy of longterm sexual relationships other than marriages. I don’t consider them to be obviously wrong as I once did. We have always had ambiguity about them in our national history with our common law marriage laws. In many states (including I believe most Southern states) a couple who “shacks up” long enough is eventually considered a legally married couple. So were they fornicating up until the day their marriage becomes legal? I don’t think so. The essence of marriage is a couple holding themselves forth to the world to be in a committed sexual relationship as life companions. Everything else about weddings and marriages is cultural. My understanding is that the church in its earliest centuries actually opposed weddings because they were commonly occasions of drunkenness and fornication by many of the celebrants. Then the church claimed weddings as falling under its own authority and regulated them accordingly. The practice of formally and legally marrying is fading away in some countries. I read recently that only 13% of couples in Iceland now are formally and legally married. I’m not at all saying that this is necessarily a good thing but I can’t see how all these folks living as spouses are really living in fornication. Like so many subjects there’s a whole lot more to this subject than first meets the eye. In sum, however, I don’t believe that longterm relationships that haven’t been formalized constitute porneia.

  76. Gary says:

    I highly recommend an essay entitled “Can Love Be a Sin?” by Amy Arndt posted today on Huffington Post.

  77. Larry Cheek says:

    I asked those questions with a purpose in mind. I was sure that you had previously mentioned that you were married to a woman and had some children. You have verified that as you voiced your concerns about the possibility of children of a parent who committed suicide were very likely to follow the same pattern. It would be my opinion that those children were not in any way responsible for driving you to this attitude of life that gave you the desire to die. I do see the possibility of the pressures surrounding the family life being so stressful to drive anyone into depression of that nature. I personally have owned my own business all of my life and there have been times when such great demands were placed on me to produce so many hours of work to have enough income to recover from my friends whom I trusted to fulfill their promises of paying for products and services which I had extended to them because of their lack of present ability to pay who then used the bankrupt laws to eliminate their debt. Yes, it seems an old Army Sargent had explained the hazards of life to me and I really did not want to accept his instruction, (that your friends are the most dangerous to you, you will trust them beyond measure and they will be the first to turn on you), you see someone who is not your friend you will not depend upon and therefore you will take precautions to protect yourself. Well I had a tenancy many times to desire that I could become ill enough to force me into not being able to work (I was tired to the bone, worn out, discouraged) there was a wife with 6 children depending upon my abilities to earn enough to survive. Not many families with 6 children can have two bread winners, the duties at home far outweigh the duties of a job. It seems to me as you relate your story for some 52 years you were not aware of a possibility that you could be homosexual. Since you decided that you are now, you state that it was there all of the time and would lead us to believe that you suppressed it ( that would be the only possibility as you could have been created that way), and it matured in the 52nd year of your life. Why have I directed you here, because if you really had been created that way, I believe that you would have been just like some I was ware of in school, it was very evident that those totally avoided any females. I am unaware if any were active with other males but for them to have an encounter with a female, the female would have had to rape the male, they would have nothing to do with the opposite sex. Well, look at you you married and produced children, would your ex-wife explain that she was the pursuer of all sexual activity from day one of your marriage? I would guess that 25 to 32 years of your life you were active in a male female relationship with no mention of being unfaithful to your wife with a homosexual partner. Since that is a longer time than the time of inactivity, it becomes very hard to believe that you could prove that you were born that way.
    Now for the other very obvious problem that you have exposed. You state that you were so concerned about your children following your lead into suicide but have not even flinched at the possibility of your children following your lead into homosexuality. In all your communications about your present lifestyle you have never given us a clue that you have any relationship with your previous family. You have even explained how it feels to be in a closet, attempting to keep your lifestyle a secret, family members don’t have the power to place another family member in a closet, they have have the ability to expel them from their activities. An individual withdraws into a closet when they are ashamed of their activity. Kid’s always attempt to hide when they had done a deed which they knew that parents or supervisors would not approve. If you or anyone else feels like they have been in a closet, they can be assured that it was their own conscious that placed them there.
    Would your family consider you as a father who has lived an example that they would be proud of, a Patriarch of the family? Of course you are relieved of depression your family responsibilities have diminished. Especially, while living the roll of a wife with no children to rear.
    As I see this action that you have chosen for your life, it has been totally selfish, to fulfill your own desires regardless of whom you hurt.

  78. Gary says:

    Larry, adultery is usually selfish by definition isn’t it? I don’t think I would have done what I did if it had not been for the strong death wish I had. But that doesn’t make adultery right. I have asked God for forgiveness for my adultery and promiscuity hundreds of times. I know he has forgiven me but it is hard to feel forgiven. I know, believe me, that I don’t deserve salvation. I knew that intellectually before I was 52 but I know it in my heart now. If I am lost or, as Jay believes, annihilated then I am at peace with that. That may sound strange to hear but I honestly believe I’m doing about the best I can do in my life now. If that’s not enough then so be it. I will still be thankful for all of the wonderful blessings God has allowed me to experience in my lifetime. It’s interesting that one life can experience so much pain and yet so much wonder.

    Larry, your understanding of homosexuality is deeply flawed. Your assumptions about it are all wrong. I’m just not up to going through your misconceptions one by one and correcting them.If you want to ask a specific question I’ll give you an honest answer as long as it is not so personal that it would be hurtful to my loved ones who might read this now or in the future. But please believe me when I say you hardly know the first thing about homosexuality. As for my children, I believe they are straight. But if any of them are gay I would hope that they would find a wonderful life companion of the same sex to go through life’s journey with. That is what I understand God’s will to be from Genesis 2:18.

  79. Dwight says:

    Gary, you obviously read much into the scriptures more than what the scriptures say to justify your argument. “Homosexuality in its common manifestations (pederasty, prostitution, promiscuity and coercion or coercive relationships such as masters and slaves) obviously were and still are porneia and are forbidden for God’s people just as those practises are also porneia heterosexually.” Homosexuality was two men having a sexual relationship and that was it. There was no background taht justified it. This is like saying that adultery was justified because of love, which does happen where one falls in love with another outside of the marriage, and yet it was still adultery. All homosexuality for all reasons were condemned. I am committed to and love my family, but that doesn’t mean that I can have a sexual relationship with my family, which would be incest. And we must look at the scriptures spiritually and not fleshly through God’s eyes. What does God want and say, over what we want and interject. Paul was very clear and very filled with the Holy Spirit when he condemned homosexuality, as it was condemned by God before and always.

  80. Dwight says:

    What I find in general is that homosexuality is separated from the pack of other sexual sins and then redefined for palability and justification purposes. Most homosexuals, correct me if I am wrong, condemn bestialty and incest and place them into separate categories, even though they are all condemned equally and in the same manner in the scriptures. But those that condemn those other sexual sins have no real standing, after all they are all listed in the OT as well and interestingly enough only homosexuality is brought out into the light as a sin in the NT. It is highly hypocritical of homosexuals to judge others in sexual sins, when they have no scriptural ground to stand on themselves. The reasons behind the sexual sins or any sin was never considered relevant to God and never argued for as to make a difference. Even in the killing of another, there was murder and there was killing for war, punishment and accident, but God made the argument Himself for the differences. God said why, not us and murder for love was not accepted.

  81. John F says:

    “This is true even of non-atoning sacrifices, because Jesus returned in AD 70 and destroyed the Temple, which is just as much a revelation of God’s will as God giving the Spirit to Cornelius.”

    Jay, on what basis do you see the above? Do you see a personal return in AD 70?

  82. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    I’m no Preterist but Jesus speaks of AD 70 in these terms in Matt 24:29-34

  83. Gary says:

    Dwight, I understand sin to essentially be the same as injustice. Bestiality is unjust because it is abusing an animal that cannot refuse sex. Also bestiality is inherently coercive because of the great difference in intelligence between humans and animals. It is comparable to someone of normal intelligence using sexually a person with a developmental disability.

    Pederasty is obviously unjust and sinful as a child is incapable of giving an informed consent to sex with an adult. All coercive sexual relationships are unjust and sinful.

    The taboo against incest is evidently because of the increased possibility of birth defects as well as a natural revulsion almost all people instinctively have at the thought, for example, of even an adult child having sex with his or her parent. There are gray areas in incest. Different societies define what constitutes incest differently. Even within our one nation, for example, some states allow first cousins to marry and others do not. (Of course everyone is related at least distantly. I know one couple who celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary last year and also found out last year that they are fifth cousins.)

    The manifestations of homosexuality that were commonly known in the ancient world were pederasty, prostitution, promiscuity and coercion (such as masters demanding sex from their slaves who could not refuse). All of those practises are unjust and sinful.

    Committed longterm same-sex relationships between persons of equal social standing were not unknown but, in the Roman Empire, would have been rare, without legal sanction, and would have been unacceptable socially. The reason is that any man who voluntarily allowed himself to be sexually penetrated was considered to be severely mentally ill. So it’s just not true that same-sex marriages in the Roman Empire were comparable to same-sex marriages today. (Rome and Corinth were both emphatically Roman in their culture- not Greek, so acceptance of homosexuality in ancient Greek culture is irrelevant.)

    Paul could not have had in mind same-sex marriages and relationships such as we have today because they would have been so rare that it strains the imagination to believe that Paul had them in mind when he wrote Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6. Also of course Paul’s own words in Romans 1 limit his seeming condemnation of homosexuality to those who exchange or give up their heterosexuality. That simply does not fit with gays having homosexual orientations firmly in place by puberty.

    Therefore there is nothing unjust or sinful today about committed same-sex marriages and relationships freely entered into by adults. If there is no injustice there is no sin.

  84. Larry Cheek says:

    In some of my comments earlier I challenged you to the fact that you performed in your life exactly as a straight ( heterosexual ) as you married a woman and produced offspring. Then you decided at the age of 52 that you really had been a homosexual since puberty, that seems almost impossible for me and I believe many others on this blog to believe. How could you trace that backwards to prior the life that you had displayed? I do not know the amount of time that transpired while you were living a heterosexual life with your wife and children, but you have not identified that you were aware of your homosexual desires until many years of living a straight lifestyle had occurred, in fact you have identified that depression had plagued your life just prior to your reluctant drifting into an encounter which did not immediately reverse your depression. Then after indulging in this activity for a time you began to feel relieved from your depression. The fact that you had not identified those homosexual tenancies prior to marriage to a woman, and apparently totally unaware of them prior to the depression, destroys the concept that you had them from puberty.
    You are aware that any sin a man commits even if forced to commit it the first time when he continues performing that action soon the conscience is seared and he is able to believe that it is no longer sin. That is how thieves get caught, they soon believe that they are doing no wrong and become so confident with their actions that the don’t bother to hide it enough to keep from being detected. Should a thief then when caught claim, I was born this way therefore I should not be punished? Claiming ignorance of the law or a term we very seldom use any more insane (you know not capable to right from wrong). Of course thieves many times are taught by their leaders that thievery is their rite, that they have a right to this lifestyle. That becomes the validation that they need to keep their consciences from convicting them of their sins. Seems very similar to me to the context of your stories.
    Gary, I write this with full realization that you will never modify your lifestyle, but someone else who is reading this may be encouraged to avoid the stumbling block which has entrapped your understanding of God’s messages. I can be confident that there is not Biblical prof to support your messages because you always refer to men’s activities following the writings from God for your support. You have never produced scriptures which even remotely validate your lifestyle as acceptable to God, and your confidence that you can stand before God while living this lifestyle and be accepted is irrelevant.
    It is not possible for you to call on Gen 2:18 in The OT to support your concept and refuse to accept that Lev 18:22 is not binding because that we are not obeying all OT laws, they both come from the same source. When you use The OT as authority, you cannot invalidate a portion of it.
    Lev 18:22-28 ESV You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (23) And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion. (24) “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, (25) and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. (26) But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (27) (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), (28) lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.
    Gary, if your theories are true then it would seem appropriate for God to apologize to those whom he administered these judgments who had committed their lives to each other. Of course, your answer would be that there were no relationships like yours (committed) but think about that very seriously, because according to your testimony you know that all these individuals who God judged, always had one night stands and never committed to each other. You have never that I remember encouraged men and women to just make a lifetime commitment to each other and they really wouldn’t have to get married. Just live in this fully committed arrangement and they will be fully accepted to God without marriage. This is the same avenue you are using.

  85. Gary says:

    Monty, I’ve actually described what happened throughout my life regarding my homosexuality a number of times on One in Jesus. I became aware of my sexual attraction to men when I was 10 or 11 with my first wet dream. Every wet dream in my life has been about a male. I’ve never experienced arousal at seeing a woman. I was able to be aroused by touch when I was younger. There are some techniques that can enable some gay men when they are young to become aroused heterosexually. Those techniques are not appropriate to go into on One in Jesus. These techniques became unreliable while I was in my 40’s and stopped working altogether in my early 50’s. One might assume that for a gay man living a straight life it would get easier over time but it is the opposite that is actually true. It only gets harder to do over time. The farther one is from his sexual peak in youth the more focused a man is on his true sexual orientation.

    This is one of the main reasons I participate in these discussions. I hope that my painful life choices might help young, gay, idealistic Christian men like I was avoid my fate. A closeted gay man who is highly motivated may be able to be sexually active with a wife in his 20’s and 30’s but is not likely to be able to continue heterosexually in middle age.

    The effect of the traditional position on same-sex marriages and relationships is to cause young, gay, Christian men to try to make heterosexual marriage work. The consequences are cruel sooner or later for all concerned. The most tragic victims of the conservative position on gay marriages and relationships are the straight women whom closeted gay men marry. In previous generations we didn’t know any better. But now conservatives should stop maintaining a subculture of denial about homosexuality that hurts so many people so profoundly. If you’re straight, Monty, this is only a theoretical concern for you. But for the gay Christians you may influence this is their lives not to mention the lives of straight men and women they might marry. You need to go back to the drawing board on this whole subject or at least leave it as a personal matter between the individual Christian and God.

  86. Gary says:

    My comment at 8am should have been addressed to Larry.

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