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.
typical CNN pro-atheist, mind-numbed, drones (comments are all in lockstep like their Furher, Ted Turner) are commenting here. 95% of USA beliieves in GOD and 85% in JESUS... you wouldn't know it reading these posts written by atheists who are angry at true believers and GOD. "Praise the Lord, I saw the Light!!", Hank Williams.
The majority of these posts are the phony drones with multiple handles to make it look like so many folks believe in their stupidity of hating and bashing Jesus.
"Phony drones" You are not Christian either with comments like that.
Tracy, you obviously skipped over Matthew 7:6.
Fact: Bible IS irrelevant.
Media is irrelevant (1 horn as described in the Book of Rev)
Government is irrelevant (2 horn)
Education is irrelevant (3 horn)
satan followers took over the heads of the Churches (4 horn)
Horn = the powers that oversee dumbing down America to Bash Jesus' truth (King James Bible).
Read it on your own Eric and save your soul and from being completely stupid.
LOL! "Education is irrelevant (3 horn)" That's funny since you would need education to learn to read! LOL!
Who cares what it says in the bible. Use your brain and think for yourself!!!
Sunspot (LOL), you believe you think for yourself? Being brainwashed by the 4 horns ... Media, Government, Education and those that follow satan that run the Churches.
Read the King James Bible on your own and learn Truth from Jesus.
Other than that, continue with your dumbing down of American's ... and believing you to be educated.
@HeavenSent "and believing you to be educated." And you are from your posts all you are proving you are judgmental and arrogant.
The ones who believe in the inerancy of the bible are the ones that cause the most harm in the name of religion
Well, that sounds good it doesnt play out. If the Bible is taken as inerrant and followed to the letter then one would never kill anyone since the Bible not only says that Christians are not allowed to kill they are even commanded to "turn the other cheek" if they are hit. The only argument against this would be that the Jews were commanded to kill the Canaanites. Which is something even most Christians have a hard time understanding so its not something they look at as a command to be followed by anyone today. So, even if you took that to be a command for Christians it couldnt followed anyway since Canaanites – who were the only ones the Jews were commanded to kill – no longer exist. On top of that, Jesus clearly condemns violence of any kind. If some Christians disregard this it does not change the fact that the Bible teaches it.
If someone does violence in the name of the Bible they are, in doing so, violating the clearest commands of the Bible and are therefore condemned by the Bible. Aberration from an ideal does not disprove that ideal any more than fat people "disprove" the existence of health.
try reading the quran...
My concern, as a gay man who works with the disabled, is that I am condemned by a society who views only one aspect of who I am in judging me so harshly. As a faith-driven individual, having chosen a vocation as a job and giving to the community, all of that is put aside for the only fact that I am gay. There are over 700 presciptions (rules) in the Bible and yet society focuses on a few as a determinants of faith. Had a cheeseburger lately? Shrimp? Played football? All the water on the planet is unholy because menstruating women are cleansing themselves, etc, etc. There are only two rules: love thy God, Creator, planet, universe as much as possible and be your care for others, that's it, that's all... If I'm going to hell, my only true fear is meeting up with members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Tune in Candude, Jesus teaches how to over come your bad behavior (sin). Your sin is Pride ... allowing your ego to believe that you are a Kangaroo, or in your case Gay. You are and always will be God's child. Now get out of that corner you stuck yourself in and read His truth (the Bible) on your own and stop with the brainwashing that you were born gay, you weren't. You were conditioned by the 4 horns (powers) to be that way. Four Horns, Media, Education, Government and those that follow satan and Lead the churches.
The real truth from a Christian.
Not one of us is perfect (myself included), and because of our humanness, we are prone to rate some sins as worse than others when God, in his holiness, sees them all as the same. He does not hate the sinner, he hates the sin.
Curious, what does the bible say about molesting altar boys . . .
It says, "if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble it would be better for him to tie a millstone around his neck and be thrown into the sea." The Bible condemns such behavior in unambiguous terms. Aberration from an ideal does not disprove that ideal.
Those Pharisees and scribes have been following satan since they crucified Jesus. They were POd when Jesus was preaching truth to men/women at that time and ordered His execution because no one was supporting the church financially. They infiltrated the heads of the church back from the beginning and having been twisting and contorting Jesus' truth in the Bible ever since.
That's why it's important to read the King James version of the Bible on your own and not listen to these followers of satan bash Jesus' truth.
KJ was gay. LOL!
I thought the article was very informative and thoughtful and appreciate someone standing up for the religion that this country was founded upon. The bible has many references to the sin or sodomy. I would hope more folks would visit Wash.DC and see all the references to Christianity, The Word, The Bible, and Our God (take a look at the buildings and the writings of our founding fathers) and realize that the nation we live in, in the USA got its start and has its moral foundation on Christianity. As this foundation erodes, we see the all the decay in society that it brings with it. God bless you all and may you all see the light before it is too late for your souls.
All those who persecute Christians are persecuting GOD. Stay Strong children of GOD! You all will be blessed!!!!!
Amen Terry. These kids don't know what they are doing, fed by all those that follow satan teaching them his lies in grade school, H.S., college ... all washing them from Jesus' truth to follow the lies of satan.
How to dumb down America's youth 101.
4 Horns in Revelation ... Media, Education, Government and the phonies leading the Churches.
And those Christians that persecute a minority group are persecuting God too! Hypocrites.
Wow! My heart aches at the amount of darkness that still rejects the Light. I only pray that before He returns that light will find its place in those who reject it.
Sorry A Disciple, but these dummies line up to follow satan. How? By the sin of PRIDE, how satan fell from God's grace, stroking everyone's egos today. Feed them lies in college, give them a degree ... now go out and Bash Jesus' truth so that satan's lie prevail. All by the 4 horns ... Media, Government, Education and the satan followers heading the Churches.
4 Horns in Rev. = the power behind who brings satan's kingdom to flourish on earth and bash Jesus' truth.
"but these dummies" – not a Christian comment all you are doing is continually showing you are a hypocrite masking your prejudices behind religion.
Dr. Gagnon, thank you for a well thought out article based on Biblical truths. I feel there is a lot of Biblical mis-information out there and so it's nice to see an article written using the correct hermeneutical process to read the Bible and understand it's messages.
However, after reading many of the more than 30 plus pages of comments I am deeply disturbed by the current state of believer vs non-believer relations. Reading through these comments and you realize things are bad, really bad.Both sides mis-quoting the Bible, both sides using inflammatory language to get a reaction, and ultimately, both sides missing the point. For believers, they are missing an opportunity.
I am asking all of the believers who read these comments to take a moment, and with time, respond with love and not arrogance. When Jesus was spit on, He did not spit back, rather, he responded with Love. And also please refrain from quoting the Bible if you are not confident you fully understand the text. Too many times, we mis-quote the Bible (myself included!) and this can seriously damage a non-believers impression of Christians and God's intentions. I must admit that I myself am guilty of responding to these hatful comments with emotion but this serves only to undermine our ability to discuss respectfully and with love the message of Jesus Christ with a non-believer. I hope my message get's through to both sides.
Thanks Fred and Dr. Gagnon for refuting Knust's claims. God's Word will defend itself.
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. " 2 Timothy 3:16-17
@Fred – Well said. The comments that I have read have disturbed me as well.
"It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion
will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the
political power to do so, and will follow it by
suppressing opposition, subverting all education
to seize early the minds of the young, and by
killing, locking up, or driving underground all
- Robert A. Heinlein
Just because the bible says so, does not make it right.
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight." Isaiah 5:20-21
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." I Corinthians 3:19-20
I guess that depends on what you foundation of "right" is.
Yes, the 4 horns in the Revelation. Media, Education, Government and Heads of the churches, all to dumb down America to bash Jesus truth, feeding everyone lies through the 4 horns. Horns means power. Who has power today to bring in the NWO ... to enslave you all.
HeavenSent – "Education" – That's why you are posting on this forum using a computer that education produced, typing in a language that the education system taught you. What a hypocrite..
Wow, CNN, it is truly disgusting that you would report this as "News". Maybe this is why MSNBC is killing you guys in the ratings.
I agree that this is not news, but perhaps you missed that it is in the "belief blog" section, and not the "news" section...
Wow, Thomas, why are you surprised. The news media is one of the four horns (powers) spoken about in the Bible. See Revaelation. 4 Horns ... Government, Education, Media and the liars that run the heads of the Church.
Just take a deep breath, scroll to the top of the page and look which section of the website this is listed under: not news.
FYI, Thomas: This is an opinion blog about beliefs, *not* a news article.
HeavenSent "Education" that is why you are using a computer to post on this blog, write a reply and read. What a hypocrite.
Hey, Love site merely a notcie that I was getting immediately redirected towards the home page when I read this inner webpage; It seemed like a internet browser hi-jack as well, I am not too absolutely sure but imagined you might be made aware of it. Kind regards
God does not force nobody to come to him or to believe in his existence, he created humanity with free will, but does that deny his existence, and chose not to believe in the sacrifice of his only begotten Son chose so at their on risk . For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
How about this: Who cares???? Are we Iran? Suadi Arabia? Do we want a BS "holy book" guiding our lives and laws? Do you really believe in the Frist Amendment? Then this is complete crap anyway, period.
Most of our base law and culture are already based on judeo-christian beliefs, like it or not. What would you like our laws based on? Human secularism? Darwinism? What?
One person reads the Bible then lives and dies an atheist. Another reads the Bible, finds faith in Christ and would rather die then surrender the blessing of reading the Bible. The Bible is meant for God's people. God's spirit helps His children to read the Bible and then build their lives upon the truths contained in the Bible.
These kids today don't know truth, Jesus' truth or any truth.
They are fed only lies, swallow them up, hook, line and sinker.
How to dumb down America 101
And that's fine, as long as "Gods People, Children and their Bible leave the rest of us alone!
Is divorce supported bu Bible. So no true christian do nothing other than what is told in bible.......
Jesus only gives an "ok" to divorce in cases of marital unfaithfulness or abuse.
Now, how far Christians stretch that statement is for you to determine.
I just hope that I am not next to the ones that will be judged and punished by god!!
Too late bucko. You're with the rest of the people that dont follow the word of the bible. not even the Pope does. If you even READ tha damn book, you would know heaven is already full and everyone supposedly goes to purgatory anyway. I hear they have great poker games there, I'll see you on the other side.
If that's true about the poker games, count me in!
All I say when people go around telling others what God doesn't like, and does.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged."
For the dummies in society today, that are too lazy to read the Bible.
Jesus teaches all how to be good.
Humans, not knowing His truth via never to read the Bible do wrong.
Therefore, you are hating Jesus because you love to behave bad and keep your sinful natures.
Oh, boo, hoo as you bash Jesus for not even knowing about the freedoms he allowed.
so true, morality is between man and his creator, not between one man and the next
HeavenSent The first line of your remarks truly shows what type of Christian you are. – NOT.
Keep reading! Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
The Bible doesn't say not to judge. It says that we will all be judged by the same standard. So if you are holding someone to a standard, you need to be holding yourself to it as well. Christians' standard is Christ... so of course nobody measures up. But we have the blood of Christ that saves us. So the point is that people who use the Bible to say "don't judge" usually just want to do whatever they want to do without someone telling them it's wrong. But the truth is that there is right and wrong.
Just a quick point to those who wonder about the accuracy of the Bible's texts, due to historical alterations, translations, etc.
(and I wonder about it too)
If God is real, and is all-powerful, He would be able to preserve the text He desired it to be, despite all of the mistakes and agendas that humans throughout the years would be destined to make.
So ultimately that is also a matter of faith, and seeking to prove it is rather irrelevant.
So, this is what our schools are teaching you ... not bad for how to dumb down Americans.
fwiw, I went to a Christian school. I'm certainly not going to claim educational excellence there.
HeavenSent, you're proof that Chrisitans are in fact hypocrites. You just judged the above poster, and judgment is supposed to be reserved for god and god alone. YOU CANT EVEN FOLLOW YOUR OWN DAMN RULES!!
HeavenSent... Your double speak is troubling. Only in America can reason be linked with the dumbing down of America.
Simple. A buttocks is an EXIT! Women were blessed with an entrance and humanity and procreation were born. Do you need "Exit Only" signs on the back of t-shirts to understand this??? Sheesh! God made the butt smelly to keep people from mistaking it for anything other than an exit only. Silly people...
Yeah, Matt, neither can you or anyone else. That's kind of the point to Christianity. Redemption and forgiveness. Restoration of a relationship with God regardless of how undeserving we are.