Rather than respond directly to the well thought out and intelligent post by Kevin M. Carnahan, I have chosen rather to attempt a humble presentation of a differing view. It is my hope that what it lacks in scholarship, it will make for in your understanding that it is born of a sincere faith in Christ, a deep love of God and a deep love for people. By way of credentials, I have none save a love of God through Christ and a love of people. I am not as well studied as Kevin, nor am I as well schooled so I must rely on sources outside of my knowledge as well as what I have discerned and been taught. Any references to word meanings will be from ‘Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries’ and for anyone quoted I will do my best to include their names, credentials and where the quotes themselves come from. Recognizing the polarizing nature of the topic and the strongly held beliefs of many, I want to make clear as well that anything said here is in no way meant to be hurtful, but rather a statement on a position, not a statement on people. Any offense is unintentional and regretted. I deeply believe in protecting and honoring the civil rights of all people and in serving any and all that I may irrespective of any characteristic about them.
I would like to begin with Leviticus 18:3-4 “Lev 18:3 You shall not do like the doings of the land of Egypt in which you lived. And you shall not do like the doings of the land of Canaan, where I bring you. Neither shall you walk in their ordinances. Lev 18:4 You shall do My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them. I am Jehovah your God.” (MKJV)
Recent archaeological evidence shows Ancient evidence survives of kingdom-sanctioned, same-sex cohabitation, as in the tomb drawings of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. Found in 1964, these tomb drawings show two men, not royalty, but high ranking, face to face in a manner similar to other Egyptian drawings depicting lovers. They appeared in a Pharaoh’s tomb which would indicate that there was societal acceptance of their union. The Pharaoh Akhenaten was believed to be bisexual and had even elevated his lover and half brother Smenkhare to be his co regent during his reign. These are just a couple examples that have been discovered. John Feinberg (B.A. English Univ. Calf. L.A.; Th.M systemic theology Trinity; M.A. and PhD Univ. Chicago) and Paul Feinberg (B.A. Univ. Calf. L.A.; Th.M. Talbot Theological seminary Th.D. Dallas Theological Seminary; M.A. Roosevelt Univ.; PhD Univ. Chicago) noted in their work “Ethics For a Brave New World” noted the legal codes of several culutres including Egypt, Canaan, Mesopotamia, and Assyria prove that homosexual relationships were both known and tolerated. The few laws about such things were primarily in reference to rape and to false accusation. They reach the conclusion that the ancient near east was a world in which homosexuality was well known. Gordon Wenham (PhD Cambrige; lecturer at Trinity College Bristol) has this to say in “Old Testament Attitudes to Homosexuality”
“The ancient near east was a world in which the practice of homosexuality was well known. It was an integral part of temple life at least in parts of Mesopotamia and no blame appears to have been attached to its practice outside of worship.” Rabbinic tradition also shares these views. These examples establish a culture that both accepted and practiced homosexual behavior in and outside of temple worship. These are also the cultures that ancient Israel was leaving (Egypt) and going into (Canaan). This sets the stage for the broad command from God to not do the things that these others are doing at the beginning of Leviticus 18, and as chapters 18-20 are one section unto themselves, all of the commands within should be taken under the broad banner of not doing the same things as the other cultures as commanded.
When we come to Leviticus 18:22 we find the homosexual acts seemingly linked to child sacrifice and/or dedications to Molech and by extension any pagan deity. The first thing I find interesting here is that immediately after verse 21, the prohibition against Molech, we find the phrase “I am the Lord”. As a literary device throughout the old testament, this phrase is often used to either start an especially important idea or to end an especially important idea. I think that there is the possibility that it is used here as a separation of the two things spoken of in this brief section, idolatry and sexual immorality. This is my observation alone and I have not heard it used anywhere else, therefore I am tempted to believe that it is of little significance, but I include it as the observation has stuck with me. Perhaps someone reading has some thoughts on it. We find it reasonable in our day and age to separate our acts of worship from our day to day activities, but in the ancient near east, there was not such a separation. Most ancient cultures, including those in the near east, operated in a theocratic system where the supreme deity on spiritual matters was also supreme in civil matters. A modern parallel are theocratic Islamic nations. If something is outlawed as an act of worship, it is by default outlawed as a civil practice, likewise if something is outlawed as a civil act, it is also outlawed as a religious act. This was the cultural norm, so when reading these verses we must keep this in mind. I also find it difficult to believe that this action is limited only to cult prostitutes in light of Deuteronomy 23:17-18. Here we find a rather specific mention of cult prostitutes in another section of scripture dealing with purity. I find it reasonable to think that if such a distinction were intended here, it would have been used. When the prohibitions on homosexual acts is repeated in Leviticus 20:13 it also does not follow the prohibitions on child sacrifice also repeated in chapter 20:2-5. While a broad intent to call homosexual sex may not be evident in the verses in chapter 18, it’s inclusion with other types of sexual sin in chapter 20 seems to confirm that this was indeed a broad condemnation, not a condemnation focused on cult worship. Robert A.J. Gagon (associate professor of NT at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (B.A. Dartmouth, MTS Harvard Divinity School, PhD Princeton Theological Seminary) in “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” agrees with this assertion as well, as does William Loader (BA (Auckl) – Bachelor or Arts (classics) (1966), University of Auckland, New Zealand,Ministerial education (1964–1967) at Trinity Methodist Theological College, Auckland,BD (Otago) – Bachelor of Divinity (1968), University of Otago, New Zealand,Dr theol – Doctor of Theology (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (1972), Mainz, Germany), a supporter of same sex relationships, in “The New Testament on Sexuality”. To make clear, William Loader has other arguments for same sex relationships, he simply agrees with the interpretation of Leviticus. I do not wish to misrepresent his over all position.
As we jump forward to the new testament, we come to the issue of the silence of Jesus on the matter. As He did neither affirmed nor condemned homosexual behavior specifically, we are left to rely on how He handled other matters of the law in the new testament. When the law needed to be clarified, Christ went to great lengths to do so. Because of this, how we see the old testament on the subject becomes enormously important. As my position is that the old testament has said that this behavior was not pleasing to God, Christ’s silence on the matter specifically only reinforces that there was nothing more to say on the matter and that the understanding of the old testament by the Jews of the day were indeed correct. I would make note that just as Christ did not allow the stoning of an adulterous woman, nor, do I believe, would He allow the stoning of anyone else. I would also note that in the extra biblical rabbinic writings there is no record of a homosexual being stoned seemingly indicating that the practice was either abolished successfully in the Jewish culture or was at least very well hidden. The fact that Jesus said nothing on the topic should not be interpreted to mean it was allowable or not, rather it should properly be interpreted against the scripture as He knew it (the old testament) and if there was not a clarification, then the old testament understanding of the day remains as authoritative.
In Romans 1:24-32 we have Paul outlining briefly the consequences of unbelief listing many things, of which homosexuality is one. Essentially Paul is explaining that the consequence of not accepting the power of redemption God provided through Christ is continued sin. Homosexuality is not the only thing listed here and that is of note. The other things listed are envy, murder, pride, back biting, etc. Most of us would not argue that these things were unrighteous behavior, so it seems odd to only remove the sexual aspects from this list. It would also seem odd to say that since this is referring to those who do not believe that it does not apply to homosexual Christians, as, even though a Christian may commit any of the sins on this list, it is not excused as being somehow suddenly not sinful behavior. 1 Corinthians 6 is nearly the same warning. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom. Again we find a list of examples of unrighteous behavior. Again we find that Christians can display these things on occasion, and it be counted as sin, but should not be engaged in these activities as habit. In 1 Timothy 1 we find Paul explaining that the law is not written for the faithful, but the unfaithful. Again he lists examples of the behavior of those who are not faithful. Again in this list we find homosexuality and other things. Again we find that the other things listed we would not have any problem calling unrighteous behavior. These seem to allude to homosexuality being unrighteous behavior. Again we find them agreeing with the old testament narrative that I had laid out previously.
So we come to today and what does it all mean today. I would suggest that it means the same thing as it always had. Sin is sin and I believe homosexual behavior falls into that category. In the same way, I understand that we all have sinned and will sin. We need to continue to seek justice and protection for everyone in our society and need to continually try to balance those protections with our faith. We need to live a life of love for God and service to others no matter who they are. God’s grace and forgiveness is, and until the end of this world, always will be available to everyone that will accept it. God’s grace will continue to transform us closer to the likeness of Christ. The Spirit within us will continue to convict us of sin toward that end. As to who gets into heaven and who does not, that is above my pay grade and I am glad for I fear that I would not be able to in good conscience allow myself in. As with any disagreement over an issue there is a right side and a wrong side, and I believe that God, in His infinite mercy will forgive our ignorance of which side is what, just not our disbelief in Him and Christ and Him crucified.