It is a known fact, at least in the United States, that many members of the Christian faith are thought to “hate” or have a “phobia” concerning homosexuals. It is also understood by some that God hates members of the LGBTQ society as well. Some claim that the Bible teaches hatred of homosexuals and that Christians should not treat them like people. The Bible has only a few instances that address homosexuality directly but has many passages that can be interpreted as supporting, or as I argue, unsupporting of the claim that God hates members of the LGBTQ community.
The first reference to homosexuality in the Bible is in Genesis 9 after Noah and his sons exit the ark. It is written that Noah plants a vineyard and makes wine which he becomes drunk upon. He lays naked in his tent and is found by his son Ham. “Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.”(NRSV Gen 9:21-22) The interpretation of this passage found by many scholars is that Ham raped his father Noah while he was passed out drunk in the tent. Once Noah wakes, he curses Ham’s son Canaan and tells him that his son will be a slave to his brothers. In Genesis, seeing someone in their nakedness is addressed relative to Noah and Ham but later in the book of Leviticus as a broad view specifically in terms of law. Leviticus talks about the idiom of seeing someone’s nakedness, someone who is blood related to the other person, as meaning that the two had sex. This is described to be an insestual disgrace that is in need of being punished. Although Leviticus talks about incestual actions in a sexual manner, it doesn’t clearly talk about incestual activity between a person and their parents. That being said, Leviticus serves as a form of insight into how people have viewed incest but not specifically sex between children and their parents. Also, Leviticus shows an interpretation of the phrase “seeing someone in their nakedness” as perhaps used in Genesis 9. Leviticus says, “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people; he has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, he shall be subject to punishment.”(Lev 20:17) Assuming that this interpretation of Genesis 9:21-22 is true, meaning that Noah had been raped by Ham, it may not be concluded that Canaan was punished due to Ham’s homosexual activity. It is unclear whether he is punished because of incest, rape, or sex out of the bond of marriage.
Later in the book of Genesis, there is another story that may be referred to as an example of homosexuality in the Bible. This story is Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis 19. Robert Buxbaum talks about the common interpretation of this passage in his article “Journal of Religion and Health”. He talks about how it has been understood that God punished the people of Sodom and Gomorrah for their homosexual actions. “In most instances, those who stood in condemnation of homosexuality called upon the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to prove that God Himself made his judgement clear.”(Buxbaum) Later he talks about how the true judgement of God is unclear. Many believe that in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah God’s wrath upon the sinful is shown, specifically homosexuals. In Genesis 19, two angels of the Lord are sent to Sodom and their goal is to find at least ten righteous people living there. If they do so, the city of Sodom will be spared from total annihilation. The two angels arrive in Sodom and meet Lot who welcomes and sort of demands them to stay at his house. Some of the inhabitants of the city go to Lot’s house and demand that the get to “know” the angels. “and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.”(Gen 19:5) This term of “knowing someone” when used in this context is often interpreted as engagement of sexual actions. If this verse is used to say that these men wanted to have sex with the angels of the Lord, then this must mean that the men of Sodom that approached Lot wanted to engage in homosexual actions. What is clear is that Lot meets the angels with righteous hospitality while some of the inhabitants of Sodom mentioned do not.
In addition, the book of Jude addresses Sodom and Gomorrah and says that the cities have been destroyed due to sexual immorality and unnatural lust. “Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”(Jude 1:7) In this passage, the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah, and surrounding cities, is not directly attributed to homosexuality. While homosexuality may be linked to both sexual immorality and unnatural lust, the book of Jude does not say specifically that homosexuality was the cause of the cities destruction. Therefore the use of these verses acting as proof that God punished Sodom and Gomorrah purely for their homosexual activites is incorrect. D. S. Bailey writes specifically about this in his book Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. He writes, “The story does not in the least demand the assumption that the sin of Sodom was sexual, let alone homosexual-indeed, there is no evidence to show that vice of the latter kind was prevalent there”(D. S. Bailey). Bailey later states in his book that the reason for the link between Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction to the practice of homosexuality may have been due to misinterpretation to Genesis 19.
Another passage that is thought to address homosexual behavior is in Romans 1 verses 26 and 27. This is in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans that Paul and his secretary Tertius wrote. “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”(Romans 1:26-27) Many have used and will use this passage to support the claim that the Bible teaches homosexual activity as a sin. While the Bible does teach that homosexuality is a sin, this passage does not offer evidence of this. Many scholars believe that this passage instead talks directly about idolatry and lust. Both of which are listed in the Ten Commandments in Exodus.
One scholar who talks specifically about this interpretation of this passage is James Brownson. He writes in his book Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships that the meaning of “men committed shameless acts with men” is serving someone other than God. “ the central problem with lust in Romans 1 is that it is an expression of idolatry in a specific sense: lust involves serving one’s own self-seeking desires rather than worshiping the one true God.”(Brownson) If this interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 should be taken, this means that the passage has nothing to do with homosexual actions or sexual actions in general. Instead it is meant to show that anyone who practices excessive lust and idolatry will be met with the punishment due to their deeds. Brownson also says that there was excessive lust within the Roman court. This is perhaps the reason why this verse was included instead of addressing homosexuality. Another scholar to comment on this passage is Steve Chalke. He says that “Idolatry, promiscuity and shrine prostitution are what Paul is addressing” instead of homosexual actions.
Although there are teachings in the Bible that are used to show that homosexuality is not supported, there are many passages that are misinterpreted and understood to have a meaning that was most likely not the writers’. After looking at a few of these passages, it may be concluded that the Bible should be thoroughly read in context and should not be looked at verse by verse unless knowledge of the context is possessed. The passages viewed earlier in this text serve as examples of when translation and reading without context can create false support for one’s claims. The Bible does in some instances talk about homosexual actions as wrong but of course this is an interpretation of a select translation. God is not portrayed as hating those who are homosexual in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament although passages in the Bible may be interpreted as God showing hatred to homosexuals.
- Buxaum, Robert E. “Journal of Religion and Health.” Homosexuality and Love, vol. 6, Jan. 1967, pp. 1–16.
- Bailey, Derrick S., Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. London and New York, Longmans Green.
- Brownson, J. Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. Eerdmans, 2013.
- “BibleGateway.” New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – Version Information – BibleGateway.com, www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-Revised-Standard-Version-NRSV-Bible/.