More on Homosexuality in the Bible (Part 1)

Interview With Father Jean-Baptiste Edart

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ROME, MARCH 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual practices are wrong, says an exegete from the John Paul II Institute in Rome.



Father Jean-Baptiste Edart, is co-author of "Clarifications sur l'Homosexualité dans la Bible" (Clarifications on Homosexuality in the Bible), published by Editions du Cerf.

ZENIT interviewed the authors in February. In this follow-up interview, Father Edart of the Emmanuel Community, discusses more in-depth the biblical teachings on homosexuality.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Friday.

Q: What are the references to homosexuality in the Bible?

Father Edart: This subject is given very little coverage in the Bible. This is linked to the absence of the visibility of this phenomenon, and that is a logical consequence of the prohibition of this behavior.

The biblical texts which address the question of homosexuality directly or indirectly are:

In the Old Testament

Genesis 19:7-8: "I beg you, my brothers, not to do this wicked thing. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. But don't do anything to these men."

Judges 19:23-24: "No, my brothers; do not be so wicked. Since this man is my guest, do not commit this crime. Rather let me bring out my maiden daughter or his concubine. Ravish them, or do whatever you want with them; but against the man you must not commit this wanton crime."

Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination."

In the New Testament

1 Corinthians 6:9: "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor sodomites ... will inherit the kingdom of God."

1 Timothy 1:10: "... law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly ... the unchaste, practicing homosexuals, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching."

Romans 1:26-27: "Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity."

Q: You quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. How should these texts be understood?

Father Edart: These two texts contain a list of vices presented as unacceptable for access to the kingdom of God.

In 1 Corinthians, two Greek words make reference to homosexuality: "malakos," translated here as "homosexuals," and "arsenokoites," translated as "sodomites."

These terms are very rare: "Malakos" appears only here in St. Paul, as for "arsenokoites," it is the first recurrence in the whole of Greek literature.

"Malakos" means, literally, "gentle, silky, delicate." In a homosexual relationship, it designates the passive partner, but it can also refer to homosexual prostitutes or very effeminate men.

The study of the meaning of "arsenokoites," and the clearly sexual context of the list of prohibitions invalidate these last two marginal interpretations.

"Arsenokoites" means literally "to lie with a man." Formed by the association of two words present in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, it quite probably appeared in the Judeo-Hellenistic context. Rabbis used the Hebrew expression "lie with a man," taken from the Hebrew text of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, to express the homosexual relationship.

They did not limit it to pederasty. All these elements seem sufficient to us to affirm that the most plausible theory is that this term refers to men having the active role in relations of a homosexual nature. The meaning of "arsenokoites" allows one to limit the meaning of "malakos" to the passive partner in a homosexual relationship.

Homosexual acts, therefore, are considered extremely grave, directly offending the divine Law. This teaching is perfectly consistent with Judaism of that time.

No distinction is related to a question of sexual orientation, or of circumstances of the act, nor is it indicated. It is the act itself which is condemned.

Q: And Romans 1:18-32?

Father Edart: St. Paul presents acts of a homosexual nature in men as well as women as a consequence of God's wrath. Research was substantiated around the precise nature of this homosexuality and of the interpretation which that passage should be given.

The Apostle wished to illustrate the nature of the ungodliness. He used homosexuality for that, vice characteristic of pagans in the Jewish tradition.

Based on the creation account in Genesis 1 and in Deuteronomy 4, he established the link between homosexuality and idolatry. In idolatry, man is dominated by the creature he adores, thus not rendering that corresponds only to the Creator.

What takes place is an inversion of the initial, manifested divine plan, among other things, in the sexual difference. In the act of a homosexual nature, this differentiation is not taken into consideration. This is why it constitutes for Paul the best illustration possible of ungodliness.

Another difficulty of interpretation of this text is the meaning of "against nature." In Roman culture, the adjective "natural" characterized acts in accord with social conventions.

Thus in Greco-Roman culture, beyond the feminine-masculine structure -- masculine is the dominant relationship -- it governed who established the moral norm in a loving relationship.

The allusion to Genesis 1 in Romans 1:19-23 invites us to see in "nature" the order willed by God and identifiable in creation. That is translated, among other things, by the man-woman sexual difference, fundamental structure willed by God as expression of his being of communion.

God willed the sexual union of man and woman, and this divine will, or divine Law, inscribed in nature is perceptible by reason. Man can observe this through all the elements that characterize sexual identity, genitalia being one of these signs.

If we wish to take into consideration the Roman meaning of this term, we could say that the act against nature does not respect the social convention established by God in creation.

The reference to Genesis 1 allows one to understand that this prohibition in no way is invalidated by questions of "tendencies" or orientation. It is every homosexual act in its materiality which is contrary to the divine will manifested in the beginning, whether imposed or consented.

Attention to the literal sense of the New Testament texts shows clearly therefore that homosexual acts are considered as gravely contrary to the divine Law. It is important to understand that this negative moral qualification is the logical consequence of a more positive side.

God willed to create man to be in alliance with him. This was manifested in the beginning in the sexual difference. The communion between man and woman is the first revelation of the love of God for man.

The difference allows for the expression of a complementarity, thus making possible the gift of persons. The sexed body manifests this. The teaching of the Church is in perfect continuity with what Scripture says on this subject.