Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Homosexuality: part 3

Well, final installment of this thread. I'm simply taking a few Biblical exerpts that are typically quoted for uses opposing homosexuality and asking that we all take a second look at what they really mean.

1st Corinthians 6:9
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders..."

The word translated "homosexual" here is interesting. Why? Because we don't know what it really means. It is translated different ways different places, but is used so sparsely in ancient writings, that we really can't pin down its exact meaning. By its context, its obviously referring to some type of forbidden sexual behavior, but we can't nail it as being homosexual simply because we think it should be. We just don't know.

Romans 1:26-27
"...God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

First of all, Paul is writing, as he says in the beginning of the book, to the Romans. The Christians in Rome. The people reading this would be immersed in Greek culture where homosexuality was widely practiced and widely accepted. He was writing from Corinth. A city whose main god was Aphrodite--a sexual deity with both male and female reproductive parts. See, the word passion or lust (depending on translation) used here doesn't mean what we would think it would mean. It connects back to the frenzied, trance-like state that worshippers of mystery cults (like that of Aphrodite) would work themselves into as part of their worship rituals. So these people were choosing to participate in a cult where they collectively moved into a feverish, wild trance and (to get to know their deity better) acted as members of the opposite sex to experience all that Aphrodite offered. A man would act as a woman and have sex with another man as part of the "sexual orgy worship ritual." Make sense?

The context makes a world of difference here. Instead of referring to people who struggle with homosexual orientations, it seems that here, Paul is referring to people who let themselves have unrestrained sexual practices as a new kind of kinky thrill. Sure, its still wrong. But if we take the time to find out why Paul might have been writing this (because of what he was seeing in local pagan temple practices) it may changed your mind on what he was actually saying was wrong (ie, perhaps he wasn't condeming all homosexuality with this paragraph).

1st Timothy 1:10-11
"The law is not made for righteous man, but... for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."

If you know anything about ancient Greek culture, then you know that the young boy was considered the most erotic subject. Look at paintings and sculptures from this time or influenced by this time period. Its plain as day. The young male body was the epitome of sexuality.

It was a common practice in these times as well for a male teacher to take a young boy and personally tutor him. This child lived with, ate, and studied with his teacher. They were most always together. It was also common for the teacher to exploit his position: either by seducing, forcing, or coercing the boy into a sexual relationship. Hence, to stay "attractive" to their mentors as they aged and progressed into puberty, these boys tried to conceal their oncoming manhood--effeminate mannerisms and make-up are a couple of techniques. When they eventually became too old and unwanted, they were tossed aside for a new victim. Obviously, they were left damaged and permanently scarred.

This practice is called pederasty. And like I said, was a common Greek practice. The word used in this verse ("them that defile themselves with mankind") is a masculine word, ruling out females from being involved in this practice. Its just an idea, a good guess perhaps. But in context, it makes more sense than other interpretations.

So while I'm not saying I have to be right, I'm just saying I could be. I'm just pointing out that we should take the time to have a good understanding of what's going on when we read a text. Just because the translators of the NIV Bible proposed a phrase to mean something doesn't mean we have to take it at face value and move on without questioning. Nor am I here to take a verse by verse break down of Biblical texts dealing with homosexuality. I've been very clear how I feel about homosexual eroticism. I've been very clear on how I think God feels about it. But the Bible isn't ammunition. We shouldn't go looking for something to shoot at someone. Its in those times we find a keyword, quote a verse, and stand behind what we say it means. When in fact, we could be totally wrong. Homosexuality is a perfect example of something that "Christians" often do that with.

"Most of all, love eachother like your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything." 1st Peter 4:8

Jesus said that others would know us by our love. Instead of scouring the Bible topically to find "answers" to a dilemma, let's take a more holistic approach. Let's take the time to find out what it really means. Let's not allow a team of translastors to tell us how to think, believe, and feel. Let's see the good news. Let's live like we love God. Let's love others, too. Because at the end of the day, we're all still human.


iSojourn said...

Hey John its been a while since i have been on here. But i got a question. Do you think Paul is speaking from his experience from the Corinthians solely or is he also speaking from his past. What i mean is, that because he was a Jew he would of already been prone against homosexual relations.
Obviously we know that Paul grew in his faith through his understanding of the Jewish Scriptures. I know many people us Deuteronomy 23 but that is translated incorrectly. What i would say is in Leviticus 18:22

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

A sin in the eyes of the law. A sin to God. If this is true that Paul writes in accordance with his knowledge of the culture he is in and his wisdom of the Scripture would he still not say its an "abomination" with any homosexuality?

"Most of all, love eachother like your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything." 1st Peter 4:8

1 Corinthians 8:1 ...we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up.

JD-part of The Mosaic said...

I don't really know what you're asking.

But as to your first paragraph: I don't see how that makes any difference.

Wouldn't he be speaking from both his past AND his knowledge of the Corinthian culture? We all are our past experiences; & Paul was socially aware and intelligent--therefore, he would have been speaking ABOUT those he was speaking TO.

Besides, you need to read all three blogs it sounds like. I spent the first two simply discussing the general topic and the difference between homosexual orientation and homosexual eroticism. To say "homosexuality is a sin" is an awful general statement that needs much further explanation than a simple yes or no answer.

But, back to my first point, I don't think you're being very lucid--I don't really get what you're asking.

Josh Hussung said...

Hey John David, hope all is well for you,

While there may be a difference between homosexual eroticism and orientation, I think we can all agree that homosexual activity is wrong.

I don't completely know what isojourn was trying to say, but we can see from his argument that while Paul's audience is from a Greek and Roman cultural influence, he is from a Jewish culture. I don't think you can toss out the fact that Paul knows the passage in Leviticus that show very clearly that God considers men having sex with other men a sin.

And while your statements about relationships with teachers and students is very interesting, it doesn't really present a case defending other types of homosexual behavior. Think about it like this:

Let's say that the Bible says that it is a sin to eat ice cream, and that I am writing a letter to an obscure group of people in Mexico where flan (sp?) is the only known type of ice cream. (I really don't know if flan is ice cream technically, but let's just say that it is.) While I know that all ice cream is sinful to consume, there is no reason for me to tell them all about sundaes and what not, because they are dealing with flan. So that is what I will refer to in my writings. But when they read the commandments of the OT and find the phrase "those who eat ice cream are an obomination to the Lord." They will realize that the consumption of all flan is sinful, but not only flan, but any type of ice cream.

Maybe Paul was talking about boys who were dressing up for their teachers and stuff, and that is a very intereseting observation. But it is not a valid defense for other types of homosexuality, because God had previously spoken very clearly, "you shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination."

Praise the Lord that ice cream is not sinful:)

iSojourn said...

Hey John sorry for the rambling that i did. I did not read what i wrote fully. Josh was better able to flesh out what i was thinking.

JD-part of The Mosaic said...

Go back and read what I wrote. I never defended homosexual "activity" (ie, eroticism). If that's what you got out of it, then you missed the point entirely and perhaps didn't even read what I wrote in all three of my posts on homosexuality.

Part 3 was simply an attempt to say that all too often, we take Biblical texts and use them to attack people when we really don't even know what they mean.

I beg of people two things: 1, read what I'm actually writing and don't put words in my mouth; 2, don't be ignorant and take things out of its original context to defend your own ideas and values.

Don't mean to be harsh.
Only trying to be honest.

iSojourn said...

In context is what i mean. Isn't Paul not just going against eroticism but also orientation in romans. I agree with what you are saying in 1 Corinthians because that word is unclear. But when spoken in other Greek text it speaks of it as homosexual relations with added explanation like in Romans. I know that we do take text out of context and translations like is Deuteronomy but my question remains is Paul rejecting all homosexuality and just adressing one Part. ie. eroticism OR is he only against eroticism. Thats what i did not understand at the end of your post.

I read again your other post to see if i misunderstood you but i am not trying to challenge you about what you believe, you made that clear. I am just confused about what you think Paul is saying. I hope that i do not sound condemning, i'm just trying to learn.

howertonjosh said...

JDR - I've been looking at some of the passages you pointed out and the words that are used (arsenokoites) and can't see a reason that it would get translated narrowly to mean "pederasty" since it was a word of Pauline origin... he made it up.

If there's not a previous (pre-Paul) context to suggest that arsenokoites specifically refers to pederasty and it's a combination of the two words "man" [arsen] and "bed" [koites], it seems like it referring to any combination of two dudes and a bed is completely unavoidable.

Help me out.

JD-part of The Mosaic said...

isojourn: Once again, I think you miss the point. Homosexual eroticism, as I already explained, is action. Its activity. Homosexual orientation is totally different, as I already explained. I don't think, in most cases anyway, someone can help the way they are. You are the way you are Pharris because that's they way your genetic code programmed you to be. What if someone else's genetic programming made them gay? They can't help that. Are you saying Paul speaks against that? I'd think that would be absolutely ludicrous, as I already explained in my first two blogs on this subject.

And Josh, I didn't say that it was the proper translation. I said, in context, it makes sense. We don't know FOR SURE what Paul meant. If he wanted to convey "homosexuals" (which would be hard to do considering the word homosexual was made up in the 1800's, but anyway...), if he wanted to pinpoint said subject, he had plenty of words to do so. Why did he make up this word? Why here in this context?

I'm simply saying blanket translations don't work all the time. We need to rethink, relearn some things--mainly, most of the New Testament. And a lot of the Old Testament.... oh, I'll just say it: rethink much of everything we "know." I'm not saying its all wrong. But maybe the way we tend to go about looking at it is. Honestly and authentically pursuing Jesus (and the associated beliefs) may look radically different than the lives and beliefs of the majority of Christendom.

iSojourn said...

OK now i get our difference here. Sorry for the length of my lack of understanding. It goes to whether or not we believe That God makes us with those tendencies or not. If we do then yes Paul would most likely be condemning all and if we don't then i see where you get Paul against Eroticism. Thats what these statements i think hinge on. Both ideas have there base but the base at which we have these ideas is different. Again, i'm sorry for not understanding.

josh hussung said...

John David,
I apologize if I misrepresented you earlier. I know you are not claiming that homosexual eroticism is ok. And I agree that we should rethink things and learn for ourselves and what not.

Here's a question I've got for you:
We have been all around the theological implications of homosexuality, and talked about some interesting stuff, but when it comes down to it, like you said, we are to love these people, whether born with it or a choice. How would you suggest that we do that. More specifically, does love mean complete and total tolerance, or does it mean confronting their sin (in the most kind way possible)? This seems to me to be the most important question we should ask ourselves as Christians.


howertonjosh said...

That is the question of the day for us to ponder. All of a sudden, the origin of the word "arsenokoites" seems so insignificant!