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 (8,832 Responses)
  1. Starwhite

    What this author, Daniel A. Helminiak is attempting to do is twist the holy bible to condone carnal desire. This is sick and perverted.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Bet

      So is murdering disobedient children, and your god condones that in his big book of hatred.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  2. n8263

    Christians think Sharia Law is immoral but impose their own Sharia Law in America.

    No matter what version, it's immoral to impose your religious superstition and deny others civil rights.

    May 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • FBTruth

      Nobody is imposing religious views on anyone. In fact it is the reverse; people trying to undermine religion. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman, and it has always been a religious union. Why change it?

      May 20, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, marriage has NOT always been what you claim. As usual, you're blathering about something you know nothing about.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • FBTruth

      Please enlighten me Tom. Give me a rundown on the origins of marriage. You may be right that there may have been outliers, but it all originates from religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it does not. And if you don't believe it, go read history. You obviously have not done so.

      Get it through your skull: NO MARRIAGE is recognized legally in this country if it is ONLY a religious ceremony. You can have a marriage with no religious ceremony whatsoever; you cannot have one without the say-so of the state.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but is usually an inst itution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and s3xual, are acknowledged. Such a union is often formalized via a wedding ceremony. Many cultures limit marriage to two persons of the opposite s3x, but some allow forms of polygamous marriage, and some recognize same-s3x marriage. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or compulsory before pursuing any s3xual activity.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      the origin of marriage
      source:theweekmagazine . com

      The origins of marriage
      The insti tution of marriage is now the subject of a bitter national debate. How did marriage begin—and why?

      How old is the inst itution?
      The best available evidence suggests that it’s about 4,350 years old. For thousands of years before that, most anthropologists believe, families consisted of loosely organized groups of as many as 30 people, with several male leaders, multiple women shared by them, and children. As hunter-gatherers settled down into agrarian civilizations, society had a need for more stable arrangements. The first recorded evidence of marriage ceremonies uniting one woman and one man dates from about 2350 B.C., in Mesopotamia. Over the next several hundred years, marriage evolved into a widespread insti tution embraced by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. But back then, marriage had little to do with love or with religion.

      What was it about, then?
      Marriage’s primary purpose was to bind women to men, and thus guarantee that a man’s children were truly his biological heirs. Through marriage, a woman became a man’s property. In the betrothal ceremony of ancient Greece, a father would hand over his daughter with these words: “I pledge my daughter for the purpose of producing legitimate offspring.” Among the ancient Hebrews, men were free to take several wives; married Greeks and Romans were free to satisfy their s3xual urges with concubines, prost itutes, and even teenage male lovers, while their wives were required to stay home and tend to the household. If wives failed to produce offspring, their husbands could give them back and marry someone else.

      When did religion become involved?
      As the Roman Catholic Church became a powerful inst itution in Europe, the blessings of a priest became a necessary step for a marriage to be legally recognized. By the eighth century, marriage was widely accepted in the Catholic church as a sacrament, or a ceremony to bestow God’s grace. At the Council of Trent in 1563, the sacramental nature of marriage was written into canon law.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  3. hammer

    Daniel and I do not read the same Bible.

    May 20, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • tony

      I agree. He must be reading his own Bible

      May 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sure. It couldn't POSSIBLY be that you two are interpreting what is written differently than someone else, could it?

      NO, of COURSE not! You are the most brilliant Biblical scholars on the planet! YOU know exactly what every word in the Bible means! You alone are qualified to decide what the Bible does and doesn't say. Everyone who disagrees with you is wrong!


      May 20, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  4. Justin

    This author clearly has an agenda and please dont be persuaded by him. If you are tempted by lust then you are not alone, persevere and great is your reward in heaven. I love you and hope you overcome. Be strong and wise, pray often.

    May 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  5. Sugarmama

    Christian do not hate gays and we are not bigots. We simply will not say something is good and right if it is not. HS is a bad bad thing. It is actually a sin against yourself that is why I really feel sorry for gays. The life that they have chosen is very difficult. Most of these indiviuals are so good, and talented and very loving. It is unfortunate that they have this disorder. We as christians need to be nice but keep standing up for ourselves when they get out of hand. I am for "civil union" gay marriage is not possible.

    May 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Bet

      Being gay isn't a disorder. It's the way they are born.

      But, let's pretend it's a disorder. Now just google a few things, like "disorders of the circulatory system", "disorders of the endocrine system" or "disorders of the neurological system". Epilepsy, autism, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and rheumatic fever are a few more disorders. Should anyone who suffers from them be stripped of their right to marry as well?

      May 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • EDC

      Bet, Gay isn't a thing you get born into. It IS a choice. I had a friend that chose to be gay, but after realizing that didn't satisfy his life, he then chose straight. Just like sin. It IS a choice we chose to do. Romans 8:12-17. If people were born gay, then would God have said differently in the Bible? Since God created man and woman.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Gay isn't a thing you get born into. It IS a choice."
      Science disagrees with you.

      You said, "I had a friend that chose to be gay, but after realizing that didn't satisfy his life, he then chose straight."
      If true, I guess your friend was bisexual, and born that way.

      You said, "Just like sin."
      Sin is exclusively reserved for the religious. Those that don't adhere to your particular flavor can't sin.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Erik

      Being gay isnt a sin. Somebody told me therefore its the truth and if you dont accept this as the truth you will be tortured for eternity. lol What a gullible lunatic you are. People like you belong in prison for a variety of things. Child abuse, for starters. Just a disgusting excuse of a Human being.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Bet


      Being gay is not a choice. It is the way you are born, just like being right or left handed, or the color of your hair. There is not one legitimate medical, psychiatric or scientific organization that considers it a choice.

      But, as I said before, even if it is a "choice" or a "disorder", that doesn't mean that the people "suffering" from it should be denied the same rights as everyone else.

      Two consenting adults should have equal rights under the law, even if they choose to have s e x in a way you don't like or approve of.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  6. Brian kinnett

    Obviously he is trying to justify his own tendecies for lusting after men, the Bible s clear you can mock it and twist it now, but one day you will stand before God and give an account for heirsy.

    May 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  7. sudarsha

    So much controversy, so much narcissism about your own opinions. Jesus said to love one another. Why don't y'all just live and let live.

    May 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Sugarmama

      Im all for that sudarsha. The gays need to sit down/shut up and use that gay energy for more important issues. Gays have all the rights they need. Aint nobody beating on them and killing them so thatz good enough. They already doing what they want.

      May 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • mntest347

      "Gays have all the rights they need"

      They don't have the equal rights that are guaranteed by the 14th amendment.

      May 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Bet

      "Sugarmama says:
      Im all for that sudarsha. The gays need to sit down/shut up and use that gay energy for more important issues. Gays have all the rights they need. Aint nobody beating on them and killing them so thatz good enough. They already doing what they want."

      Why is it that gays should be the ones to sit down and shut up? Did African Americans sit down and shut up when they didn't have equal rights under the law? Did we say, well, you're not slaves anymore, so you have all the rights you need? Is not beating or killing people your standard for how they should be treated just because they look, act or think differently from you? I really don't like your god.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  8. dljr60

    he WAS ordained in Rome. I am sure he is NOT a priest now if he holds true to his warped diabolical view. Are we so stupid as people that GOD must spell out every do and dont for us? He gave us common sense – which seems to be not very common anymore – to reason sensibly.

    May 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  9. jerry


    May 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • govspy

      Which bible are you using? Some backwoods redneck bible that authorizes slavery and spousal abuse?

      May 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  10. Dorothy

    How many of you here have actually studied the Bible? Because some of the comments about what the Bible says are incorrect, so far out of context, personal translations, off the wall, and down right stupid. If you are going to discuss the Bible at least read it studied it, The are article is so bias and adds confusion. And clicking your mouse to get a few scriptures to try and validate your point, doesn't mean you know the Bible..oh, I forgot, this is a "secular" belief blog...

    May 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • I wonder


      Perhaps you think that YOUR personal interpretation is the right one, though, eh?

      May 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Bet

      I've read it and studied it in English, Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. It's a book full of myths, contradictions, hate, murder and intolerance.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  11. Brad

    Why did you stop the quote where you did in Romans 1:26-27??? "...were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And the context is all about being "given up to dishonorable passions". It is included in a long list of perversions, idolatry and rebellion. And clearly that's not what Romans 11:24 is talking about. I hope you're a better and more honest lawyer than theologian.

    May 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • govspy

      Wow, you totally missed the point of the entire article. Instead of looking up each chapter of the bible he quoted so you could find disparities in the post that would back up your already prejudiced mind, you should have understood the message that the author was trying to convey:

      The intent of Jesus's message in the Christian Bible is to spread love and acceptance, not hate and divisiveness.

      It's understood that you couldn't read that message in this CNN article, because you also missed that message in the Bible itself.

      May 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  12. Lulu

    What a world we would have – truly a city on a hill – if we could fully practice the last paragraph.

    May 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  13. tony

    It's been nearly 10 years, and still no religious leader or even a poster here has stood and explained how the Tsunamis are the good work of their "loving god".

    May 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  14. ORG99

    Read Rom 1:28. It puts 1:27 into context.

    This author is a false teacher and will not like his ending.

    May 20, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  15. Pninah


    May 19, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  16. Sharky

    John 21:20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

    May 19, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Pninah

      Looks gay to me, Sharky.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  17. Sharky

    Gospel of Mark Chapter 10:34~35: "And the youth, looking upon him (Jesus), loved him and beseeched that he might remain with him. And going out of the tomb, they went into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days, Jesus instructed him and, at evening, the youth came to him wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God".

    May 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Pninah

      Yep, looks like jes-s was gay here too.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • ritch

      where in mark 10 do you quote

      May 19, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • ritch

      where does it say what you quoted in mark chapter 10

      May 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Veritae


      My KJV/NIV version does not contain your passage. Very clever way of taking your position by making up scripture, but I fail to see that it makes any difference. The real scripture says what it says. Jesus clearly defines marriage in Mark 10: 6-9. You cannot change that either...

      Good evening.

      May 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  18. Veritae


    So you simply negate Romans 1:1, 1 Cor. 6:9, and another text in Paul's letter to Timothy, not to mention all of the versus condemning adultery and fornication outside of Jesus' definition of marriage (Mark 10:6-9, and think that if even if God condemns HS, then it logically follows that God is perfectly fine with SSM?

    Your logic is confusing... Malachi 3:6 reads a first person statement made by God that he himself does not change. If he openly condemned HS in the OT, why would you think he changed his mind and made it acceptable in the NT and during the current Age of the Gentiles?

    Good evening.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Bet

      You logic is confusing. You base your life on a book of myths and legends, full of contradictions, that promotes hatred and violence toward your fellow human beings, all in the name of a big invisible sky creature.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Sugarmama

      Wonderfully said! I hate no one but I refuse to call the Word a lie just to make these people feel good about doing something they know is not right. Deep down every HS knows what they are doing is not good and the that is why they want as many as possible to support them in their wrong doing so they wont feel so bad.

      May 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bet

      Sugarmama said: "Wonderfully said! I hate no one but I refuse to call the Word a lie just to make these people feel good about doing something they know is not right. Deep down every HS knows what they are doing is not good and the that is why they want as many as possible to support them in their wrong doing so they wont feel so bad."

      Why are you so interested in what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom? The bible also says that your god killed forty two children by having two bears maul them to death because they teased Elisha for being bald. (2 Kings 2:23-24) Your god tells you to kill women who aren't virgins on their wedding night. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

      People who believe this book pick and choose the parts they think should be enforced. The parts they pick are always the ones that apply to someone else.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  19. Pninah

    You say this: "David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Daniel and the palace master were probably lovers" LOL All that you list were married. Funny how you leave out the xtian god named jes-s who was not married yet had 12 merry men following him. He should be at the top of the gay list.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • will

      Daniel for sure was NOT married in any formal way. Most likely he was a Eunuch. I haven't studied the ladies enough but many have said David & Jonathan surely couldn't have been lovers. So I'm not saying Daniel didn't have a lover of some kind, special friend that he was close to, BUT there is almost no way he wasn't a Eunich.

      Also to the ones above who said what bible are you reading out of mentioned was it one that authorized Slavery or Spousal Abuse & actually many have used the bible to support those things. The bible is a journey of faith between imperfect people & a Perfect God but its far from a rule book & far from black & white.

      I'm a conservative ordained Assembly of God minister & I think this article was great even though I don't agree with it 100%. I love good dialogue & open dialogue!

      May 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  20. bryanbeus

    I'm just amazed that someone could spend so much time in an effort to twist the Bible back on itself.
    This article is wishful thinking in the extreme.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Phos Phorus

      I agree. The Bible couldn't possibly be more twisted than it already is. Any further twisting would make a knot.

      May 20, 2012 at 3:29 am |
    • Bet

      No more twisted than the money hungry con artists who preach that god is love, but promote his book of fairy tales that teaches violence and hatred.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:22 am |
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