March 3rd, 2011
01:25 PM ET
My Take: The Bible really does condemn homosexuality
By Robert A. J. Gagnon, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D., is associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics and (with Dan Via) Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views.
In her recent CNN Belief Blog post “The Bible’s surprisingly mixed messages on sexuality,” Jennifer Wright Knust claims that Christians can’t appeal to the Bible to justify opposition to homosexual practice because the Bible provides no clear witness on the subject and is too flawed to serve as a moral guide.
As a scholar who has written books and articles on the Bible and homosexual practice, I can say that the reality is the opposite of her claim. It’s shocking that in her editorial and even her book, "Unprotected Texts," Knust ignores a mountain of evidence against her positions.
It raises a serious question: does the Left read significant works that disagree with pro-gay interpretations of Scripture and choose to simply ignore them?
Owing to space limitations I will focus on her two key arguments: the ideal of gender-neutral humanity and slavery arguments.
Knust's lead argument is that sexual differentiation in Genesis, Jesus and Paul is nothing more than an "afterthought" because "God's original intention for humanity was androgyny."
It’s true that Genesis presents the first human (Hebrew adam, from adamah, ground: “earthling”) as originally sexually undifferentiated. But what Knust misses is that once something is “taken from” the human to form a woman, the human, now differentiated as a man, finds his sexual other half in that missing element, a woman.
That’s why Genesis speaks of the woman as a “counterpart” or “complement,” using a Hebrew expression neged, which means both “corresponding to” and “opposite.” She is similar as regards humanity but different in terms of gender. If sexual relations are to be had, they are to be had with a sexual counterpart or complement.
Knust cites the apostle Paul’s remark about “no ‘male and female’” in Galatians. Yet Paul applies this dictum to establishing the equal worth of men and women before God, not to eliminating a male-female prerequisite for sex.
Applied to sexual relations, the phrase means “no sex,” not “acceptance of homosexual practice,” as is evident both from the consensus of the earliest interpreters of this phrase and from Jesus' own sayings about marriage in this age and the next.
All the earliest interpreters agreed that "no 'male and female,'" applied to sexual relations, meant "no sex."
That included Paul and the ascetic believers at Corinth in the mid-first century; and the church fathers and gnostics of the second to fourth centuries. Where they disagreed is over whether to postpone mandatory celibacy until the resurrection (the orthodox view) or to begin insisting on it now (the heretical view).
According to Jesus, “when (people) rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels” (Mark 12:25). Sexual relations and differentiation had only penultimate significance. The unmediated access to God that resurrection bodies bring would make sex look dull by comparison.
At the same time Jesus regarded the male-female paradigm as essential if sexual relations were to be had in this present age.
In rejecting a revolving door of divorce-and-remarriage and, implicitly, polygamy Jesus cited Genesis: “From the beginning of creation, ‘male and female he made them.’ ‘For this reason a man …will be joined to his woman and the two shall become one flesh’” (Mark 10:2-12; Matthew 19:3-12).
Jesus’ point was that God’s limiting of persons in a sexual union to two is evident in his creation of two (and only two) primary sexes: male and female, man and woman. The union of male and female completes the sexual spectrum, rendering a third partner both unnecessary and undesirable.
The sectarian Jewish group known as the Essenes similarly rejected polygamy on the grounds that God made us “male and female,” two sexual complements designed for a union consisting only of two.
Knust insinuates that Jesus wouldn’t have opposed homosexual relationships. Yet Jesus’ interpretation of Genesis demonstrates that he regarded a male-female prerequisite for marriage as the foundation on which other sexual standards could be predicated, including monogamy. Obviously the foundation is more important than anything predicated on it.
Jesus developed a principle of interpretation that Knust ignores: God’s “from the beginning” creation of “male and female” trumps some sexual behaviors permitted in the Old Testament. So there’s nothing unorthodox about recognizing change in Scripture’s sexual ethics. But note the direction of the change: toward less sexual license and greater conformity to the logic of the male-female requirement in Genesis. Knust is traveling in the opposite direction.
Knust’s slavery analogy and avoidance of closer analogies
Knust argues that an appeal to the Bible for opposing homosexual practice is as morally unjustifiable as pre-Civil War appeals to the Bible for supporting slavery. The analogy is a bad one.
The best analogy will be the comparison that shares the most points of substantive correspondence with the item being compared. How much does the Bible’s treatment of slavery resemble its treatment of homosexual practice? Very little.
Scripture shows no vested interest in preserving the institution of slavery but it does show a strong vested interest from Genesis to Revelation in preserving a male-female prerequisite. Unlike its treatment of the institution of slavery, Scripture treats a male-female prerequisite for sex as a pre-Fall structure.
The Bible accommodates to social systems where sometimes the only alternative to starvation is enslavement. But it clearly shows a critical edge by specifying mandatory release dates and the right of kinship buyback; requiring that Israelites not be treated as slaves; and reminding Israelites that God had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt.
Paul urged enslaved believers to use an opportunity for freedom to maximize service to God and encouraged a Christian master (Philemon) to free his slave (Onesimus).
How can changing up on the Bible’s male-female prerequisite for sex be analogous to the church’s revision of the slavery issue if the Bible encourages critique of slavery but discourages critique of a male-female paradigm for sex?
Much closer analogies to the Bible’s rejection of homosexual practice are the Bible’s rejection of incest and the New Testament’s rejection of polyamory (polygamy).
Homosexual practice, incest, and polyamory are all (1) forms of sexual behavior (2) able to be conducted as adult-committed relationships but (3) strongly proscribed because (4) they violate creation structures or natural law.
Like same-sex intercourse, incest is sex between persons too much structurally alike, here as regards kinship rather than gender. Polyamory is a violation of the foundational “twoness” of the sexes.
The fact that Knust chooses a distant analogue (slavery) over more proximate analogues (incest, polyamory) shows that her analogical reasoning is driven more by ideological biases than by fair use of analogies.
Knust’s other arguments are riddled with holes.
In claiming that David and Jonathan had a homosexual relationship she confuses kinship affection with erotic love. Her claim that “from the perspective of the New Testament” the Sodom story was about “the near rape of angels, not sex between men” makes an "either-or" out of Jude 7’s "both-and."
Her canard that only a few Bible texts reject homosexual practice overlooks other relevant texts and the fact that infrequent mention is often a sign of significance. It is disturbing to read what passes nowadays for expert “liberal” reflections on what the Bible says about homosexual practice.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Robert A. J. Gagnon.
About this blog
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.
The bible is a work of fiction. And now that Knust and this guy have debated it, on tomorrow's CNN.com special on such works of fiction, I and my geeky girlfriend will debate whether Sauron or Sarumon was more evil, and whether they lusted for each other. Like these two before us, we'll pretend that Sauron and Sarumon existed and we both have personal knowledge of them. Later, all four of us will go look for Noah's Ark, on the way to your weekend Creation Museum trip.
The bible also condems women who are seen in pblic during their menstral period, it condones slavery, and states that rich people have very little chance of making it to heaven. How come CNN doesn't print articles from religious types discussing these and the hundreds of other things that so-called christians love to ignore, when it comes to the sacredness of the bible.
"God is God and His word is true, and that doesn't depends on your opinion" is the one of the most close-minded things one could possibly say. Welcome to hypo-christ-y land, population: you.
Does anyone really care what the bible says? I'm a columnist. A humanist. Live in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. come visit me at http://bettejo.wordpress.com/ Scroll round and round, go up and down, You might like some of my stuff. Read SUNDAY MORNING. NEANDERTHALS WITH NUKES. Peace and love Betejo
Okay, so that's what it says. I wrote a book and in it I ban idiocy. Both are just words on a printed page, nothing more.
Since when does Knust represent the entire Left?
I bet this author eats shrimp and pork and that he wears fabric blends.
Rationalize all you want, fella, it still looks like selectively following the scripture you do like and ignoring the scripture you don't like.
I've met REAL Christians before and they don't pick-apart obscure passages in the Bible looking for excuses to be small and hateful. They love without judgement as Jesus instructed them to do.
Then we need to ban the bible.
Going with your thought process, why not ban something you worship, like money.
Excellent article, accurate and well written.. The people on here who mock and make fun are just heaping judgement on themselves. They will answer for every foolish hateful word, every one.
That's fine, so long as Dionysus, the God of wine, keeps us supplied with his tasty libation then we shall not want or worry!
And I bet you are relishing the thought of people being burned and tortured aren't you? Do you think god will let you watch? At least put it on pay-per-view?
Religion. Justifying hate for thousands of years!!!!!!!!!!!
You said: "with so much evidence that Jesus did live"
Not true Mona.
There were no eyewitness accounts of Jesus. The Gospels were written by god knows who in the third person. The Gospels were written with an agenda i.e., Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God.
We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)
The bottom line is we really don't know for sure who wrote the Gospels.
-Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it.
-C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)
There are no known secular writings about Jesus, that aren't forgeries, later insertions, or hearsay. NONE!
Most of the writings came from people who lived AFTER Jesus was dead. Can you say hearsay?
We don't even have a wooden shelf that Jesus might have built. Or anything written by Jesus (He was probably illiterate).
The Dead Sea Scrolls did not mention Jesus or have any New Testament scripture.
Jesus, if he existed, was not considered important enough to write about by any contemporary person. The myth hadn't had a chance to flourish.
Paul's writings were the first, about Jesus. But, Paul's writing was done 25 to 30 years after Jesus was dead. In a primitive, ultra-supersti_tious society, 25 years is a lot of time for a myth to grow. Paul never met Jesus.
Some people feel that Paul, not Jesus, is the real father of what most Christians believe today (Pauline Christianity).
Jesus predicted He would return in the 1st Century. He did not.
Mathew 16:28 – "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here,
which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of
man coming in his kingdom."
Mathew 23:36 – "Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon
Mark 9:11 – "Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that
stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they
have seen the kingdom of God come with power."
Luke 9:27 – "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here,
which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom
If Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, who died for man's redemption, then this would be the most important event in the history of man.
Why wouldn't god have ensured there was tons of evidence that this was true? Multiple Writings by contemporary eyewitnesses – Jews and Romans.
You are going to want to say that there IS lots of evidence, but look at reality: There are way more people, in the world, who are not Christians than who are. Obviously, the evidence is not adequate to convince most if not all people.
1. If God/Jesus existed, this fact would be more obvious.
So obvious in fact, that EVERYONE, or nearly everyone would believe in His existence. There would be only worshipers of the one true god.
2. God's existence is not, in fact, as obvious as we would expect, if he existed.
This fact is evidenced by all the different religions, plus us nasty atheists.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.
You said: "All the prophecies in the Bible that happen today and you still think it's fiction?"
The problem with Biblical prophecy, is that we don't know when the prophecy was actually written. The prophecy could well have been written after the fact.
The prophecies of the Old Testament were well known to the authors of the New Testament. The New Testament was written after the Old Testament. There is no miracle here.
The New Testament was written to "prove" Jesus was the Messiah. The author of Mathew even admits to Jesus riding on a colt for the sole purpose of fulfilling a prophecy.
Mathew 21: 1-11
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
“ Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘ Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey."
It isn't really very hard for the writers of the New Testament to have Jesus fulfill the prophecies. LOL
David, I really enjoy what you post on this and other comment boards.
Every source you site is the opinion of a fallible human that appears to e wise in there own eye, much like yourself. God will not be mocked.
may god forgive you and provide you wisdom to understand what you read? No wonder Bible has been mostly read book by commons and uncommons. I hope you read bible from first to last page try to find answers to your ques.
And this is not first time that Gods existance is questioned. Many generations are questioning this, you guys are one of them. I dont blame anyone. There are modern age Sadome and Gamora but you need to study it to understand the context in the bible and events in the modern history.
Gay couples can't have children thus unable to further the religion to the next generation. No wonder the Bible is against it.
Thumbs up! Sorry about accidently reporting as abuse. 🙁
Neither can priests...
All that crap he references and I didn't see one time where God, Christ or any of his ghost writers said, "Thou must not be gay!!". If it was such an important issue, wouldn't God have said something that could really be understood as being said. Instead we key in individual words – and those individual words mean . . . whatever you want them to mean.
If it were important – Charleton Heston would have put in on one of the clay tablets he chisseled out in the mountains,
Truth is totally unaffected by what any of you believe to be truth. Truth is ... TRUTH. And God gave us a book that tells us what the truth is. So are you waiting for the DVD to come out before you're going to accept it?
But whose translation or interpretation is the TRUTH? Yours? Mine? His? The Tele-preacher on channel 2?
God didn't give you a book. Mortal men wrote ALL religious writings, and added, and deleted, and revised, changed, politicized for power. Taking any of this stuff verbatim as written is so hard to imagine that people are that gullible. You are probably what you were fed from birth. It's called mind control in it's truest sense. If you were born Jewish, you'd be defending the Torah.
If God's hand reaches down from the heavens, hands me a book, and says "This is the TRUTH", then I will believe it. What we have now is an internally contradictory work written by men with agendas thousands of years ago, repeatedly translated with questionable accuracy, and interpreted by more men with agendas. The Bible is no more the truth than the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or Dianetics.
So, you're going to go out and kill a few people who work on Saturday then? Hmmm..... No. But the Bible says to do it! So when you don't you're cherry picking the bible.
Um, no your invisible "god" didn't give you a book, some men did in order to control you
The bible forbids many things. Eating pork, eating at Red Lobster or Long John Silvers is all an abomination before God. If you catch your neighbor working on the sabbath, it's your religious duty to KILL him, if your children are disobedient it's your duty to kill them as well. How long are the fools on the religious right going to continue to take this crap seriously? It seems like they pick and choose which nutty old testament verses to use as a weapon against anyone they choose to persecute. It's an ugly version of religion and should be banned as a hate group.
I think there may be a god, but I do not subscribe to religion. Religions, as we know them, are the consctucts of MAN, not the devine. I mean, the bible as we know it was written and edited in the early 4th century. Since then it has been translated, adapted, altered, and deliberately changed to meet the agendas of various governments and monarchs. The bible has some good messages, but so many bad ones! Who would want to worship a diety that made Job suffer to prove a point? Asked a man to kill his son to see if he would do it? Flood the world? Send people to hell who don't fear and worship him? And what sort of loving god demands that gay people be killed? Not my god. You all can keep that one.
sad when people can't handle the truth, and you see such anger come out. No where in this did I read anywhere where he was saying that God or Jesus hated anyone, he was only saying what the Bible God's word says, and was given to us to follow. Take it or leave it, it is your choice. No one is forcing anyone to believe. If I'm wrong, I end up decayed and worm food one day, if you're wrong, well you have no excuse, you have had the choice.
He is not speaking God's words, he is proclaiming his INTERPRETATION of them. That's a different thing all together.
If your interpretation flies in the face of logic, reason, compassion, and common sense, then you should take another look.
Brenda Jo: I agree that everybody has a choice to their religion, and you definitely have a choice to believe what you want and follow what you believe are the teachings of Jesus Christ as you see fit. My issue is that often people like you want to impose their choices to others. So because they might think that being gay is wrong per the bible, they want to impose behavior controls on other people, wanting to pressure or legislate behaviors that are a personal choice. This issue is similar to abortion in that sense, where people want their personal morality to be imposed on others. I don’t think abortion is the right thing to do, and I would never do it (I was raised in a catholic conservative household, so I would not be comfortable with that choice myself) but I’m a pragmatist and I know that sometimes bad situations happen where there is no good way out, and I personally don’t think I have the right to tell other women what to do with their bodies and their lives. I don’t think I was put in this earth to make sure everybody else does everything “they are supposed to do (according to me)”. I’m pretty sure Jesus agreed on that point too.
and, brenda jo, what happens to those people who turn down the choice? eternal punishment?
in other words, it's a threat: do as we say or you'll suffer forever. perhaps you (and the writer of this article) should sit down and consider how long "forever" is. perhaps you're smart enough to know that, while we're having this conversation, a star just died and took out a whole solar system, killing all life within it. simultaneously, light years away, another star is born. all this is happening so that you and your kind can tell other people who they can't sleep with? get real.
further. if you're wrong, you and your kind and "commanding" your fellow human to become worm food, having lived alone and celibate and thereby wasting the only chance they have at love, throwing away the only life they will ever get.
take a good long look at that and consider how evil that is.
Exactly! Poor Brenda Jo, I stop believing in fairy tales when i was 8!
Its worse to judge others and hate people for their free choices than to be gay. The bible is a collection of mostly fictional stories assembled 1600 years ago by a small group of power-hungry men to gain that power over the masses. It happened at the Cousil of Rome in 382 presided over by pope damasus I. Google it.
Sir I can Google a lot of things and get different answers, it depends on who is writing it and what they want to say. No need to be so angry, no one is forcing you to believe anything and this is a Free Country founded on Christian beliefs and Thank God for those Christians that we have this Free Country and don't need to Google that, just look at any of our National Monuments, it's engraved in all of them. 🙂
I am shocked by the vitriol towards God and the Scriptures. We accept what we believe by faith and by that faith,we accept the Bible as God's authority. I won't trash anyone on here for their beliefs but honestly, I am deeply offended by these atheistic rants and insults concerning the Person I choose as my Lord and Savior. I know the comments that will follow this post, however, it doesn't matter. I respect your choice not to believe, but don't insult my intelligence and my character as a believe just because of your refusal to believe.
These people are defending themselves. Its religious people who are on the attack. Its religious people who are trying to tell others whats right and wrong. This is a free countyry, not a christian nation. You can't have both!
God Bless you Ray and don't worry, if they hate you remember how they hated Jesus, I would rather walk with Jesus through this world being hated and know I'll be singing his praises one day in Heaven. 🙂 Be of good cheer let his love comfort you 🙂
Your bible is a book that has no relevance for anyone other than those so deluded to believe what's in it. It must have no legal or moral standing in any enlightened nation and should not be used as an excuse for bigotry.
Um Brenda Jo. You'll just be dead like all the rest of us. God is a delusion created by man.
If you want to believe the irrational then be prepared to be taunted by those of rational mind. Make stupid claims with no evidence, and you get called stupid. Derp.
It is not a personal attack on you, sir. You are welcome to your beliefs. I simply do not share them, and I explained why. And when a Christian person stands on a corner and tells me that this is evil, and that wrong, and I will go to hell, I tell them exactly why thier argument holds just as much weight as one suggesting that Unicorns are real.
When did you break out of Arkham???
UncleM as I said I may be, if I'm wrong but would rather be wrong and be dead and worm food than wrong and be at the judgement seat just something to think about...I'm what you call safe both ways, one way I'm happy and singing praises living with all those promises God has given us in his word, the other I'm not going to feel a thing...how about you???
thank you sir for repllying in a rational way to the many comments against the article and those of us "morons", "stupid people" who believe in Jesus Christ.
'I'm what you call safe both ways,'
you are forgetting option three.....there is a god but he isnt the one you are worshiping.
I have to agree with CH.This editorial is not a clarification of biblical texts but rather an attack on Liberals/the Left whom it specifically mentions.Liberals generally supports gays but don't forget that Liberalism also includes athiests.The hallmark of Liberalism is exactly that kind of inclusion while this editorial highlights Conservative exclusion.
Amen!! Good job Ray on speaking truth! Let's pray for not only ourselves, but those who have been deceived by Satan's snares. He knows he has but a short time before the Lord returns and he's doing all he can to cause confusion and dissention. Time is drawing nigh and more and more are ignoring God's Word.
@CH didn't you just contradict yourself? You said this is a free nation, but it's not allowed to be called a Christian nation??? So, if it's a Christian nation it's in bondage or something? I don't follow. If anything Ray supports that non-believers are free to believe whatever they want to believe, but she is asking to be free to believe what she wants and not be criticized for believing. You my friend, seems like you're the one on the defense. I for one am a believer and I am glad that I live in a free country where I am free to believe in God and Jesus.