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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 • Opinion

soundoff (8,831 Responses)
  1. nickky

    I always thought it was sick and digusting but that's just me.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  2. Leigh2

    Bootyfunk

    "however it's role in bringing rules to the human race, has probably saved mankind over and over again."

    yeah, tell that to the victims of the crusades, witch burnings, inquisition, etc. and btw, hitler was a christian.

    **************
    I can state with the most sincere clarity, none of those you mentioned were Christians. They were Christian in name only. They were children of the devil.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • El Lobo

      What a friggin copout. Own up to the sins that were commited using the Bible. What a coward you are!

      May 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • sam stone

      Ah, the NO TRUE SCOTSMAN fallacy again

      May 15, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Gregg

      Wherever there's rules, there's always victims, and the harsher the rules, the more victims, and the worse the plight of the victims. Those on the side of those in power call those who don't abide by the rules, lawbreakers, subversives, delinquents, heathens, satanists, terrorists. Those on the other side call them freedom fighters and heroes. You may believe these rules were created by some higher power or god, but whether or not this is the case, they are carried out and implemented by humans, often corrupt humans. And yeah, the victims, those ancient cities and cultures which were razed by mobs and war bands, often in pure genocidal rage, some of which were described in some of the books of the bible like some passages of Deuteronomy in particular. Then you have the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Burning Times, the raids and killings by the Spanish Conquistadors, the forced relocation of indigenous people, the seizing of said cultures children for forced indoctrination, the lynching of African Americans in the first half of the 20th century, etc.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Scott

      Ah, the NO TRUE SCOTSMAN FALLACY fallacy. Can one eat meat and then call themselves a vegan? No. Can one join the military in a combat arms role and declare themselves a pacifist while pulling the trigger on the enemy? Uh, nope. Can one be an atheist who believes in the God of the Bible? Words mean things people. Being a Christian means a change of heart and divine guidance of desires and behavior, hence the legitimacy of saying "A Christian would not gas six milllion jews", which is just as legitimate as saying "Vegans don't eat meat". And that's the truth laddie.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  3. I am John

    A time existed when the world of mankind was filled with darkness and hopelessness and had among it a prince of darkness. Then the Father sent His Light to the world to offer mankind the gift of salvation. He offered mankind Himself as a Light to shine in the darkness and to give a brighter hope. One of the greatest gifts of love that the Creator gave mankind was that of free will. A free will to choose the Light or the darkness. Some chose the Light to shine for mankind to see, but others chose the darkness. The life of the Light was extinguished by those who chose the darkness. However, the Father restored the victorious Light and He returned to the Father thus defeating the prince of darkness. The defeated prince of darkness continued in his efforts to blind the world and his attempts to extinguish the Spirit of the Light that shines in this world of darkness through those who accept the Light. However, the prince of darkness will not extinguish the Light for He is an inextinguishable, eternal Light. Soon, the Father returns the Light as the King of kings and Lord of lords to extinguish the prince and his darkness, and darkness will conquer His Kingdom nevermore. Then the Light will remain evermore with those who have chosen the Light . Come, Lord Jesus! Amen!

    May 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Hellbound

      Go get a kitchen knife, slit your throat, meet your savoir! Then we don't have to hear about it anymore. Win.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • 2468

      Hellbound: you are soooo edgy. You must be soooooo cool... Seriously, try to come up with an original comeback. Troll fail.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • What???

      Hellbound! I know who you are and your life is about to change.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  4. bigpeeler

    Having a Catholic explain the holy scriptures is tantamount to a rap singer explaining quantum physics.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  5. ron

    A lion for every "Christian"!!!! One with a lisp ; )

    May 15, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  6. Just another Conservative

    Amazing...the article left out the most important scripture, 1Corinthians 6: 8-10. Read it if you don't know what it says.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • manbearpig

      The fact that you self-identify as a conservative and want me to read a bible verse makes me inclined to do the opposite of what you tell me to do...

      May 15, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Matt

      You are so right – men who lie with men – do not have God's favor, approval, but his condemnation. They will not be a part of his kingdom – there will go into ever lasting cutting off. The author of this article thinks that God's love will cover all sin, but that is not the case. Those who continue to engage in practice that have God's disapproval will recieve their just reward and they will not be included in his kingdom arrangement. Those who repent and recognize the love he showed through the ransom sacrifice of his son, Jesus have the prospect of everlasting life under his kingdom arrangement. Those (people, men and women) who continue to practice fornication will not. Also those who support them also put their everlasting existence in question also.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Just another Conservative

      Well PIG, just doing the work that the good Lord put me on this earth to do because some are too lazy to open The Book and read. People fail at putting together a BBQ grill because they don't read instructions. Same way with life. You have to read THE instructions.
      Thanks Matt!

      May 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • manbearpig

      Ooooooh – was that supposed to be insulting? Hahahaha! The fact that you think that an ancient book of myths that was cobbled together by countless authors over many decades is the instruction book for life says a lot.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Just another Conservative

      Hmmm, pay much attention to the world around you Pig? Read, you will see that those countless authors wrote exactly as they were told...have you noticed that their SOURCE was right, because me, you, and the rest of the people on this planet are ALL living in the Revelation period as we speak. So, if everything has been timed right thus far, who do you think is right....YOU....or those countless authors? I definitely would not put my bet on you.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  7. Tc

    Typical atheists and bigots on here totally disrespecting Jesus and believers. Proves the type of trash that is stinking up the world.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • ben

      amen.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Joseph L

      Excuse me......The Christians on here are the only uneducated bigots. Grow up please.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Just another Conservative

      2 Corinthians 4:4

      May 15, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • 2468

      Tc & Joseph L: you are both lazy human beings (if that), labeling everyone under one stereotype. You deserve each other.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • sam stone

      Why do you feel that believers deserve respect?

      May 15, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Sarah

      Yeah, and you're not being trashy at all when you call people bigots just because their beliefs are different from yours... way to show the love of Christ.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Joseph L

      Christians are scared to death of facts. I am not an atheist but will not let facts get in the way of a good ridiculous story.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Joseph L

      Correction:.........Christians are scared to death of facts. I am not an atheist but Christians will not let facts get in the way of a good ridiculous story.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  8. Joseph L

    OK.....why do we really care about what the Bible says or doesn't say about gays? The Bible is a corrupted, forged, error filled work of mythology. Study Christianity people and how the Bible was made.....the sure fire way to leave the mythology of Christianity. It's the Greatest Story Ever Sold..................signed: Not an atheist but a former Christian. Amen.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Tc

      If you actually studied history and prayed you would know your statement is bunk. Whatever you are or call your self you have sold yourself your own story

      May 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • El Lobo

      Yeah it is historical......Noah squeezed all 10 billion species in a boat! Think man, Think!

      May 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Joseph L

      Tc: Your posts shows your absolute lack of knowledge regarding Christian history and how the Bible was formed. I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect, had intended for us to forgo their use. Organized religion is responsible for the brainwashing of millions of young children too young to know the difference between reality and the fantasies of millions. Save Yourself. Drop Christianity.......We are all our own Gods and part of God, here to create our own destiny, not follow or worship some neurotic, vengeful, or needy God. You have made God into your own image.......Education is the key to combat ignorance.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Matt

      It has been my experience that anyone who makes statements like this has never read or studied the Bible. There are people that can help you do so. Probably they have knocked on you door and you turned them away or you see them on the street encouraging you to take their literature. Why not find out the Bible really teaches instead of what is taught in the so called Christian churches who either try and scare you into believing or all they want is to make you feel good so you will put money in the collection plate

      May 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  9. El Lobo

    Nobody Fuks with the Jesus man!

    May 15, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • kika

      Its people like this that should be kept awy from expressing their sad and perverse opinions. Stop trying to convince people that being gay is accepted by God/Jesus. It isnt. It never has and it never will.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • El Lobo

      You ar delusional. Name a verse?

      May 15, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • El Lobo

      Your hatred and bigotry has clouded you analytical thinking skills! You are choosing verses to make your argument but disregarding ones that have no social acceptance anymore like almost all of Deuteronomy.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Joseph L

      Kika: People are born gay. Being gay is an innate, God given, biological, unchangable, naturual, wonderful part of a person. I thank God I was born gay, although it has been an incredibly hard life because of ignorant people like you but I would never change a thing. It has made me the man I am today and I'm proud of that.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • sam stone

      El Lobo: Other than the other guys he was wandering around the desert with, you mean

      May 16, 2012 at 3:49 am |
    • sam stone

      "Its people like this that should be kept awy from expressing their sad and perverse opinions."

      Free speech. Get used to it.

      "Stop trying to convince people that being gay is accepted by God/Jesus. It isnt. It never has and it never will."

      You have no authority to speak for god. Now, B, get back on your knees

      May 16, 2012 at 3:54 am |
  10. Larry

    Eisegesis at its finest.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  11. Russ

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

    And yet CNN has chosen not to post ANYTHING to the contrary for over a week now...

    May 15, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  12. Al

    Thanks... but I'll stick with the authoritative interpretation – that is, the interpretation of the man to whom Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      translation:

      "Thanks... but I'll stick with the original fairy tales!"

      May 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Tc

      Exactly. This article is a fail and the fallen priest disproved his own point by indicating Paul told people to marry who could not be single and marriage in his day was man and woman

      May 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • El Lobo

      Translation:

      Thanks but I'll keep my hatred and bigotry version

      May 15, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  13. Haydon

    Fail

    May 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  14. PhillUranus

    I don't know what it say about them, but most of the guys in the bible wore dresses and the main guy spend 3 years with traveling with 12 other guys.
    Very weird

    May 15, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      jesus never got with a girl and hung with 12 dudes - G.A.Y. i heard he wore rainbow underwear.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Most of the straight people back then got married early in their teens.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • It comes down to this...

      "The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing"

      May 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      that sentence is too long. it should read "the gospels are foolishness."

      May 15, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • bkhowell

      i bet you have a small penis..........................

      May 15, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • BamaDaniel

      Catholic church version.they're gay frauds wouldn't get so much money if they came out .Jesus slept with Mary mag. That's why he went to her after rising from dead.first before his buddies kinda like getting out of jail

      May 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  15. What???

    God’s love is unconditional, His mercies and grace abundant and His desire is that we learn His ways. Believers pray for those among us who don’t believe and we will behold with our eyes His might works His Glory or His Judgment.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Hellbound

      kill yourself so you can get to your god sooner, you would be doing yourself a favor.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • What???

      Death will come in its time.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  16. BamaDaniel

    Booty all ancient books are myth you have been taught that ancient man only write about 300 million dollar blockbusters.did you know dragon only meant very big.lizard just 300 years ago

    May 15, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      not all ancient books are myth. histories have been written.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      did you know the bible talks about unicorns, dragons, satyrs + c.cokatrice? and talking donkeys just like in Shrek!

      May 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • BamaDaniel

      Yes unicorn,maybe another word for rhino.dragon meant very big lizard until 1800a.d. Alternate gorillas were a myth, platypus a fake, giant squid drunken sailor tale

      May 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  17. Frank Cardenas

    Thank you for an intelligent understanding of the scriptures that far too many religious people ignore in order to justify their own bigotry and even hate.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • cindy

      I hate to tell you those are opinions of the author, not what the Bibke actually says,

      May 15, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  18. Juanito

    Anie, indeed. I am a sinner and in need of my Savior. If cotton/poly blends are mentioned in the Bible as an abomination, I'm sure my acceptance of Christ as Savior will wash that sin away as well.

    Manbear: I will never insult you. But as He mentioned in Scripture, anyone who follows Christ will be mocked, insulted, and even killed, as was happened to Him.

    Just a Thought: God is Holy, and the sin we commit(lust, hate, theft, etc) cannot be acceptable to Him, no matter how much historical perspective we have on the subject. God doesn't alter His Holiness to fit our 'enlightened' perception we have of Him. If our hearts and actions are less than Holy, then it 's incredibly misguided and arrogant to stand in His presence and say we are righteous.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • cindy

      amen

      May 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • manbearpig

      Juanito – how convenient for you. The bible says mixing fabrics is a sin, but you can just disavow that and deliberately ignore it. Youre sure that christ will wash away your sin, you say. But you condemn others to damnation. Interesting.
      And you must be delusional to think it's the christians that face persecution in this day and age. Admit it: you've never been persecuted for your religion. If you want to know about persecution, talk to ga.y people...I'm sure they can enlighten you.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  19. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    What the bible says about killing your enemies but saving all their virgin girls for fun later:

    Numbers 31:17-18
    17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Hellbound

      Nice! Ra pe intended?!

      May 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • BamaDaniel

      Man wrote that and everything else in it.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Haydon

      Try reading in the correct context and maybe it will make a little more sense. You must understand who is saying what and to who it is being said.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • momoya

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSS-88ShJfo&w=640&h=390]

      May 15, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Observer

      Haydon,

      Please explain when it is good to kill boys and ra-pe women according to the Bible.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • DragonSlayer Lights Your Fire

      @momoya

      thanks for the video. Very Interesting. A must watch!

      May 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • What???

      In a slight twist of the words of Shakespeare “to believe or to not believe that is the question”? It is Gods will allow that you don’t have to believe.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  20. The Peace of the Lord

    "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.... The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:14, 1: 17.

    So says the Word:

    "When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadduccees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 'Teacher, which commandment in the law is greatest?' He said, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these commandments hang all the laws of the prophets." Matthew 22:34

    "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man." Luke 6:22.

    "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned, give and it will be given to you." Luke 6:37.

    Amen.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Hellbound

      I want to force a big knife in your butt hole.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • BamaDaniel

      Hellhound you need some weed therapy and go to a strip club with butt naked women and see what you're missing

      May 15, 2012 at 10:49 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.