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My Take: What the Bible really says about homosexuality
The author argues that the meaning of the Bible's passages on homosexuality have been lost in translation.
May 15th, 2012
05:39 PM ET

My Take: What the Bible really says about homosexuality

Editor's note: Daniel A. Helminiak, who was ordained a priest in Rome, is a theologian, psychotherapist and author of “What the Bible Really Says about homosexuality" and books on contemporary spirituality. He is a professor of psychology at the University of West Georgia.

By Daniel A. Helminiak, Special to CNN

President Barack Obama’s support of same-sex marriage, like blood in the water, has conservative sharks circling for a kill. In a nation that touts separation of religion and government, religious-based arguments command this battle. Lurking beneath anti-gay forays, you inevitably find religion and, above all, the Bible.

We now face religious jingoism, the imposition of personal beliefs on the whole pluralistic society. Worse still, these beliefs are irrational, just a fiction of blind conviction. Nowhere does the Bible actually oppose homosexuality.

In the past 60 years, we have learned more about sex, by far, than in preceding millennia. Is it likely that an ancient people, who thought the male was the basic biological model and the world flat, understood homosexuality as we do today? Could they have even addressed the questions about homosexuality that we grapple with today? Of course not.

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Hard evidence supports this commonsensical expectation. Taken on its own terms, read in the original languages, placed back into its historical context, the Bible is ho-hum on homosexuality, unless – as with heterosexuality – injustice and abuse are involved.

That, in fact, was the case among the Sodomites (Genesis 19), whose experience is frequently cited by modern anti-gay critics. The Sodomites wanted to rape the visitors whom Lot, the one just man in the city, welcomed in hospitality for the night.

The Bible itself is lucid on the sin of Sodom: pride, lack of concern for the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:48-49); hatred of strangers and cruelty to guests (Wisdom 19:13); arrogance (Sirach/Ecclesiaticus 16:8); evildoing, injustice, oppression of the widow and orphan (Isaiah 1:17); adultery (in those days, the use of another man’s property), and lying (Jeremiah 23:12).

But nowhere are same-sex acts named as the sin of Sodom. That intended gang rape only expressed the greater sin, condemned in the Bible from cover to cover: hatred, injustice, cruelty, lack of concern for others. Hence, Jesus says “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19; Mark 12:31); and “By this will they know you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

How inverted these values have become! In the name of Jesus, evangelicals and Catholic bishops make sex the Christian litmus test and are willing to sacrifice the social safety net in return.

The longest biblical passage on male-male sex is Romans 1:26-27: "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."

The Greek term para physin has been translated unnatural; it should read atypical or unusual. In the technical sense, yes, the Stoic philosophers did use para physin to mean unnatural, but this term also had a widespread popular meaning. It is this latter meaning that informs Paul's writing. It carries no ethical condemnation.

Compare the passage on male-male sex to Romans 11:24. There, Paul applies the term para physin to God. God grafted the Gentiles into the Jewish people, a wild branch into a cultivated vine. Not your standard practice! An unusual thing to do — atypical, nothing more. The anti-gay "unnatural" hullabaloo rests on a mistranslation.

Besides, Paul used two other words to describe male-male sex: dishonorable (1:24, 26) and unseemly (1:27). But for Paul, neither carried ethical weight. In 2 Corinthians 6:8 and 11:21, Paul says that even he was held in dishonor — for preaching Christ. Clearly, these words merely indicate social disrepute, not truly unethical behavior.

In this passage Paul is referring to the ancient Jewish Law: Leviticus 18:22, the “abomination” of a man’s lying with another man. Paul sees male-male sex as an impurity, a taboo, uncleanness — in other words, “abomination.” Introducing this discussion in 1:24, he says so outright: "God gave them up … to impurity."

But Jesus taught lucidly that Jewish requirements for purity — varied cultural traditions — do not matter before God. What matters is purity of heart.

“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles,” reads Matthew 15. “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Or again, Jesus taught, “Everyone who looks at a women with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Jesus rejected the purity requirements of the Jewish Law.

In calling it unclean, Paul was not condemning male-male sex. He had terms to express condemnation. Before and after his section on sex, he used truly condemnatory terms: godless, evil, wicked or unjust, not to be done. But he never used ethical terms around that issue of sex.

As for marriage, again, the Bible is more liberal than we hear today. The Jewish patriarchs had many wives and concubines. David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Daniel and the palace master were probably lovers.

The Bible’s Song of Songs is a paean to romantic love with no mention of children or a married couple. Jesus never mentioned same-sex behaviors, although he did heal the “servant” — pais, a Greek term for male lover — of the Roman Centurion.

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Paul discouraged marriage because he believed the world would soon end. Still, he encouraged people with sexual needs to marry, and he never linked sex and procreation.

Were God-given reason to prevail, rather than knee-jerk religion, we would not be having a heated debate over gay marriage. “Liberty and justice for all,” marvel at the diversity of creation, welcome for one another: these, alas, are true biblical values.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Daniel A. Helminiak.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Gay marriage • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (8,829 Responses)
  1. Barry

    Is this guy referring to anything from the King James Bible? Is he just selective? In King James Version Romans Chapter 1 verses 18 through 23. Enough said.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Derek

      The Bible is a 2000 year old book nuff said

      May 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • sybaris

      Who cares

      It's just a dumb book cobbled together by supersti-tious ignorant people.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  2. Peteyroo

    If God really cared about his minions, wouldn't he/she have sent the Bible 2.0 by now? It would be so easy to clear up so many disputes with an updated version of the Good Book. I don't think it's too much to ask for an update every 2,000 years.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      The Bible is like the Commodore 64–old and out-of-date.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  3. Eugene

    This is horrible what’s next going to happen to this nation:( its sad We have leader that supports gay marriage. Bible clearly all wicked sinners will be thrown in to hell us Christian need to stand up together in prayer and pray for God to poor out his condemnation on those who driving this nation in to destruction. And those who support it.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • JWT

      The bible does not apply to all people. Although it does make good fire-starter.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • GOPlies

      Where in the bible does it say gays are sinners?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Are you against his race or his beliefs?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Jerry

      GPOlies: Ronmans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God."

      May 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Jerry

      Sorry....Romans 3:23

      May 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Bet

      Separation of church and state. All men are created equal. That's what our country was founded on. Not the bible.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • sybaris

      Eugene, by your logic non-chrisitan regions/countries should be in chaos. That is simply not the case and in fact some have a better quality of life than in the U.S..

      Educate yourself. Don't let your minister enable your ignorance and stupidity

      May 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Why do I have to obey your Bible? I reject it. This is not a Christian nation and never has been. Yes, there are a lot of Christians–many of them good and decent people and many of them overwrought haters. But not everyone is Christian or even religious. Why do I have to live by the rules you tout from your Bible?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Piranha Soup

      Massachussetts passed a gay marriage law, and you bible thumpers was screaming fire and brimstone.
      Massachussetts was going to fall into the ocean, or burn in hell.
      We are still here.
      We are doing just fine.

      May 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  4. Benjamin

    So here we go again, anything to make oneself feel better about their sin. You will never master the ultimate Supremacy of
    Almighty God. You talk about all the contributors to Scripture except The Son Of God, whose every effort is to bring good where the sickened worldly pleasures of the human weakness over riding the Spiritual. You, Daniel Helminlak are of Satan himself, whose every effort is to battle the GOOD by EVIL!! So you join the forces by trying to tear down, when those of Christ choose to built up respect for oneself before coming to His judgement. The Devil has already judged us, where he wallows in our weaknesses. Your whole intent if to break faith, to have God's people of faith question HIM!! Not going to happen!!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Does your mommy know you're playing with the computer again? Or your parole officer?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Do you also believe the earth is flat or that unicorns roam the forests?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      No such thing as sin.

      May 16, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  5. Creationism1

    If god created man in his image, and a certain percentage of people have always been gay, then god must be a little bit gay himself...

    May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • TruthSayer

      Now ask the same question to a Reformed Theologian. Dr. James White, John Macarthur, RC Sproul, Paul Washer, Noel Hendrix. These men have a much larger following, sold more books and have been interveiwed more than Mr. Helminiak. It doesn't meet the truth test of this site. Here is what we know to be true Mr. Helminaik is tring to come to terms with his sin, therefore the message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing. Sadly, he is perishing and given over to his reprobate mind. He is a doulos to his lust.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Elise

      Not to mention that this: Nevertheless the Bible wtreirs claimed repeatedly that they were transmitting the very Word of God, infallible and authoritative in the highest degree. is simply wrong. When the Word of God is mentioned (as in John 1 or the 2 Peter passage you quoted), it is clearly NOT the Bible that is being referred to, but a heavenly power. Except for the book of Revelation, no New Testament book claims to be inspired by God, much less infallible. I wonder how much of the Bible this author has read?

      November 10, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  6. deftony99

    if gayness was normal then men would have a hole where the other men's genital would fit i think.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • GOPlies

      Yeah it is called the assbutt

      May 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • sybaris

      Your ignorance made obvious

      By your logic, if you had no desire for se.x then you would not be gay....................and you would not be heterose.xual either.

      You fail

      May 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      You shouldn't think. You're no good at it.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Bill

      LOL....are you serious??? You've never seen a girl get tapped in the backdoor before? I'm fairly certain that angle is a cross gender characteristic....

      May 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • SteveFromOhio

      I'm guessing your thinker doesn't get much exercise...

      May 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Bill

      Maybe you've never tapped anything period.....that would explain a whole lot!

      May 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • deftony99

      Think what you want but it's that simple bros, i rather be a tard than gay, but understand this i don't hate gay people, I'm just saying is not normal, wake up and stop using drugs bros, in the animal kingdom do male dogs hump other male dogs? duh seriously we have genitals to procreate, if there was a world full of gay men we wouldn't exist cause we wouldn't be able to pro-create, is that simple, if you don't understand this, either you are dumb or conveniently dumb.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Bill

      Yeah..."bro" I'm sure you have done "extensive" research in male/male copulation practices. Can you try using correct grammar when you respond? Isaiah 13 sayeth: "Thouest better condemneth with proper grammar. To not do so is an abomination beforeth the Lord." See, you're an abomination before the Lord too!

      May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Bill

      "i rather be a tard than gay"

      ....I'm thinking you might be both. However, I can't figure out which one is your most dominant characteristic. That being said, my apologies to all gay and special needs people who read this....I wasn't trying to lump you in with this guy!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • deftony99

      LOL Bill poor Bill...don't worry i won't judge you, it's ok buddy I accept you but your still abnormal, when a same gender mammal species is able to procreate then i will believe is normal. til then toodles!!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Bill

      I'm abnormal?? That is real funny coming from you, a guy who probably moonlights as a lot lizard at a truck stop! Just so you know, I'm very straight...but I have no problem with people who aren't. You should try it some time...and by "try it" I mean get some compassion and understanding...you know, what Jesus said!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
      • deftony99

        Bill don't bring Jesus into the conversation, did you not read my post or are you just angry that not everyone agrees with your opinion? I don't hate or dislike gay people, it's their lifestyle but don't tell me that's normal because is not and you know it...so you try to make an argument by acting like a 5 year old and insult me? Bill it's ok if your gay no one will judge you, it's the internet you can come out now.

        May 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Bill

      AND LEARN HOW TO USE GRAMMAR!!!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  7. jesus

    if you even consider believing the word of man over thousands of years and dont think it was altered to be what those people want it to be than you are a retarted person last i checked people cant walk on water or do anything that would even resemble a miracle unless your chris angel but i dont see him racking up the followers and making the world better so we are just dealing with a very stupid population in general and its a shame since there is potential by some thats ruined by many.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  8. Derek

    what's it matter what a 2000 year old books says about gays? why not just let them be? why do people care so much?

    May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • JW

      What you believe about it will determine whether you live in a gold and jewel-filled mansion forever, or in a fiery furnace. That's why it is such a heated debate.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  9. New Mexico

    Canada legalized gay marriage nationwide in July 2005. That was about 7 yrs ago. Notice Canada has not gone to hell in a hand basket. If you look closely, their quality of life is very strong. So is their economy. God did not "smite" Canadians, to use a biblical term that is out of date. Looks like he continues to bless them.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • puckles

      The smiting is yet to come, but it will happen soon. The fact that this topic is even relevant is a sign of the times.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Kevin Wilson

      As a Canadian New Mexico I can confirm, no smiting, and it hasn't torn our country apart – the scoial fabric is doing just fine thanks.

      And Puckles, your contention that the 'smiting' will come soon – that's the problem with the religious fanatics, proof is always 'about to come' and you don't really care about facts and logic anyway. If Canada thrives for the next fifty years you'll say : "God is waiting for the right moment" If there is a flood next month, or a slight downturn in the economy a year from now it will be 'proof' that God is getting us.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • JW

      Here's the future smiting: They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6 Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7 And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. 2 Peter 3

      May 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      *** The smiting is yet to come, but it will happen soon.

      2000 plus years and waiting........

      May 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  10. Daryl

    people keep thinking it's about a religious thing it's not it's about RIGHTS!!! you redneck backwoods folk don't get it I may not be gay but I support EQUAL RIGHTS! it's not my job to judge ANYONE!!!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Erik

      "Redneck backwood folks"? A big of a bigot yourself there Daryl.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  11. Ivan

    I am reading a lot of "You don't know what the bible says". Which of you is an actual biblical scholar? How many of you use the bible as you see fit and if you disagree with the bible, you ignore it. That is what is called hypocritical.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  12. Jerry

    Well Daniel Helminiak, I suggest you print a copy of your article and put in in your back pocket for when you come before God in judgement. You can use this article and your book to make your case. Good luck with that.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Steve

      Sounds like he knows the Bible better than you do.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • JohnnyC

      Word.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      If god is so powerfull, why would Daniel have to print out his story ?
      You make no sense.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Well Daniel Helminiak, I suggest you print a copy of your article and put in in your back pocket for when you come before God in judgement. You can use this article and your book to make your case. Good luck with that."

      Good luck with your prejudice judgmental attitude that doesn't represent your Christ at all. LMAO!

      May 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  13. Kevin Wilson

    The anti-gay comments here are priceless: "I think gays look weird and it has to do with their gayness!!", "this guy is so gay, he [wants] to discredit the bible so he can lie with his gay guy at night" , "It was Eve that got us into trouble, not Adam" "[CNN] It will give me great pleasure that by Gods hand you cease to exist!"

    Nothing promotes the moral and sane approach of President Obama on this issue, then the ignorance and hatred of many of the comments on this site. 50 years ago these same commentors would have been saying the same things about mixed-race marriage.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Steve

      Well said. People who try to use religion to promote discrimination do religion a disservice.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Kristen

      Ditto

      May 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Gonculator

      Most of them sound like they are ten years old.
      Some of them havent showered in days.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  14. Joshua Walker

    1 Corinthians 6:9–11
    9What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, 10nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. 11And yet that is what some of YOU were. But YOU have been washed clean, but YOU have been sanctified, but YOU have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.

    Now it dont say to hate gay people but that it is wrong and you will not be in gods kingdom if you practice it. It also says that what some people where and that you can turn around and repent for your wrongdoing and God will forgive you and that you can be in God's kingdom.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Derek

      You should learn proper grammar

      May 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Derek

      You should learn how to type with proper grammar. "It don't say." Really? You don't sound smart to me

      May 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Andrew Pearce

      I'm fine with that, as I don't believe in the notion of Heaven (God's Kingdom), angels on clouds and an spending eternity in paradise.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • YeahRight

      Cor in the original Greek was about male prostitution, it was prejudice scribe that changed the text and in some bible added the word homosexual. It has nothing to do with what we now know and understand about gays today. Part of reading comprehension 101 is you put it into historical context. Duh.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  15. matt

    You've got a degree....ok that makes you a stupid smart person!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Steve

      As opposed to you, who is simply a stupid person, it seems.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  16. puckles

    The poop chute was not made for the peeper. PERIOD.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Kevin Wilson

      Right – it was Jesus who said that right? Just after he talked about the need for love and tolerance?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  17. korkea aika

    the wildest abomination is the thought " God is a man like me " . That is an abomination.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • SteveFromOhio

      Unless, of course, you're a Mormon such as Mitt Romney.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  18. JOSE0311USMC

    EDAM AND EVE , A MAN AND A WOMAN....GOD PICK THEM....GOD COULD OF PICK 2 MEN-OR-2 WOMEN, BUT DIDN'T... I REST MY CASE ON GAY MARRIAGE...GOD DO NOT APPROVE, IS WRONG.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Steve

      The story of Adam and Eve is a parable for the dawn of humanity, not a historical text. Only a fool believes that everything that's written in the Bible is intended to be taken 100% literally.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • um

      He chose Adam and Eve because only a man and woman can have a child. It doesn't mean that he doesn't like gays, it just means that he knows that two men can't save the population. So pretty much, gays, in someway, are helping our population control.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Common Sense

      God didn't choose to put a Buick or a Coca-Cola in the Garden of Eden either. Does that make Buicks and Cokes "against God's will"? BTW, what makes you so sure you speak for God and the author of the article above does not? Rather presumptuous of you, wouldn't you say?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Yadda Yadda Yadda Bing!

      The only thing at rest is your mind.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Grog Says

      Grog say,
      Adam hit eve over head with club, and have way with her.
      Grog make funny.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  19. Hmmm

    "“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the penis that defiles,”

    May 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  20. matt

    I do not want to be standing next to you at the great white throne when the judgement day comes. Do you really believe what you are saying. It is ok for a man to stick his penis into another mans rectum. Do you know why god instructed the hebrews to bury their dung....? It was unclean. Slant what you will, but the end for middle age folks is only 40 or so years away. Good luck you'll need it.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Walken1

      It seems to me that you're the one who is doing the judging here. Shame on you.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Bet

      I have a great white throne. It's in my bathroom. That's where you're opinions belong, too.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Michael

      mind your own business. What other people do in the privacy of their bedroom is none of your business.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Grog Says

      God is so caring that he worry about hebrew poop.
      Maybe god has bad design, back to drawing room.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.