Jennifer Knapp is a Christian music artist. Recently she announced that she’s a homosexual. She questioned the authenticity of Bible translations on the issue of homosexuality. She’s not the first to try her hand at this. Here’s a portion of her rationale:
The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about.1 I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.
Let’s look at a section of Scripture that is before the shellfish prohibition. Later we’ll look at an even earlier passage. In the minds of most clear thinking Bible students, Genesis 18–19 (also Judges 19:22–26) is quite clear in its condemnation of homosexuality. Two male visitors (actually “angels” who act as God’s “messengers”: Gen. 18:22; 19:1) “came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.”
Lot invites the two men “to spend the night” at his “house” (19:2). The angels want to “spend the night in the square” (19:3). Lot “urged them strongly” not to stay in the square but to enter “his house” (19:3). Before they all went to sleep, “the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter” (19:5). Without any desire to meet the strangers, the men of Sodom demand that Lot “bring them out to [them] that [they] might have [sexual] relations with them” (19:5). The word translated “relations” is the Hebrew word yadha (“to know”). The word yadha appears nearly fifty times in the book of Genesis and in at least seven instances it means sexual relations.2
When Lot offers his daughters as substitutes for the Sodomites’ request, he uses yadha (19:8). If the word yadha means “to get acquainted with” in 19:5, then it means “to get acquainted with” in 19:8.
In answering those who oppose your position, it is best to find the most formidable opponent. If his arguments can be refuted, then it’s safe to assume that lesser critics have also been refuted. John Boswell, assistant professor of history at Yale University, has written the most highly regarded defense of homosexuality: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. It purports to be a scholarly work. In design, it is. His arguments, however, at crucial points, are flawed.
Homosexual Objection 1
Boswell writes: “The sexual overtones to the story are minor, if present, and that the original moral impact of the passage had to do with hospitality. Briefly put, . . . Lot was violating the custom of Sodom (where he was himself not a citizen but only a ‘sojourner’) by entertaining unknown guests within the city walls at night without obtaining the permission of the elders of the city.”3
Biblical Response 1
First, by this time Lot was no longer a “sojourner,” although the crowd accused him of being one (Gen. 19:9). The text states that Lot “came in as an alien” (19:9), but by this time he had his own house (19:2) and may even have been a ruler since he met the angels while he “was sitting in the gate of Sodom” (19:1). The gates of the city is where the rulers met to hold court (Deut. 16:18). Since Lot met the angels at the gates of the city, the elders were no doubt present. Lot operated according to custom. Lot showed hospitality to the strangers by feeding them and offering them his home for lodging (19:1–3). He even washed their feet which was symbolic of hospitality (cf. John 12:3; 13:5).
Second, if the men of Sodom were only asking to “get acquainted” with the two men, was this not an act of hospitality? Obviously Lot did not consider their advances to be hospitable: “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly” (19:7). It’s obvious that the men of the city had some evil thing in mind.
Third, the severity of punishment for a lack of hospitality seems extreme. Greg L. Bahnsen writes: “It calls for a strange mentality to see (1) how a simple desire of the townsmen to get acquainted would be a breach of hospitality, (2) how it could be deemed seriously wicked (especially in light of the city customs, which Lot certainly understood), and (3) why it would be so vile as to warrant dramatic divine punishment.”4
Homosexual Objection 2
Boswell: “Sodom is used as a symbol of evil in dozens of places, but not a single instance is the sin of the Sodomites specified as homosexuality.”5
Biblical Response 2
First, in listing Sodom’s sins of “arrogance,” “abundant food,” and “careless ease,” and a refusal “to help the poor and needy,” homosexuality was the outgrowth of spiritual decadence. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.
In a sense, homosexuality is the cultural culmination of rebellion against God. It represents the ‘burning out’ of man and his culture. Paul described accompanying aspects of a culture that reaches this stage in [Romans 1] verses 29–31. The vices enumerated by Paul accompanying the open practice of homosexuality and characterize a society in which homosexuality is practiced and tolerated. Therefore, homosexuality that is publicly accepted is symptomatic of a society under judgment, inwardly corrupted to the point of impending collapse. Paul the apostle regarded it as the most overt evidence of that degeneracy to which God in His wrath gave over the nations.6
Second, Boswell quotes Ezekiel 16:28–49, but he fails to include verse 50: “Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.” The word “abominations” is the same word used in Leviticus 18:22 to describe explicit homosexual behavior. Notice too that “abominations” is listed last. Homosexuality is the culmination of evil.
Homosexual Objection 3
Boswell: [Sodom] “was destroyed because the men of Sodom had tried to rape the angels.”7
Biblical Response 3
If it was all about love, then why was Lot so concerned about avoiding the men of the city? Why didn’t the angels tell Lot that there’s nothing wrong with staying in the square if consensual homosexuality was not a sin? Boswell’s explanation assumes the validity of homosexual “love.” Boswell and other homosexual advocates must first prove that homosexuality is in fact a legitimate act before they can claim that homosexual acts between “consenting adults” are legitimate in biblical terms. It’s possible that Lot knew that visitors often came to Sodom to engage in homosexual relations. Sodom was known for its decadence, similar to parts of San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta. This is why Lot is so insistent that the angels stay with him. The square was considered a “pick-up” point for visitors to the city.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22). The verse is rather clear in its portrayal of homosexual activity without using the word “homosexual.” The Greek word homo means “same.”8 The word “homosexual” was coined from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: “A male shall not lie sexually with a male, someone of the same sex (homo + sexuality), as a male would normally lie with a female.” Even pro-homosexual writers admit this verse depicts same-sex (homosexual) activity, but they deny that same-sex activity is condemned by God. Contrary to their opinions, a same-sex relationship is described in the Bible as “an abomination.”
“Abomination, a term of strong disapproval in Hebrew (to’evah), is used five times in this chapter [Leviticus] (vv. 22, 26, 27, 29, 30) and in 20:13. It is more common in Deuteronomy (17 times), in Proverbs (21 times), and in Ezekiel (43 times). Other writers use it less often. It comes from a root meaning ‘to hate’ or ‘abhor.’ An abomination is literally something detestable and hated by God (e.g., Prov. 6:16; 11:1).”
“If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they surely shall be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them” (Lev. 20:13). This verse repeats the prohibition of Leviticus 18:22. There is a penalty of death attached to the prohibition. The death penalty puts the behavior in a category different from ceremonial uncleanness found elsewhere in the chapter and the larger legal code.
Homosexual Objection 5
“The Hebrew word ‘toevah,’ here translated ‘abomination,’ does not usually signify something intrinsically evil, like rape or theft (discussed elsewhere in Leviticus), but something which is ritually unclean for Jews, like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation, both of which are prohibited in these same chapters.”9
Biblical Response 5
Certain ceremonial violations were considered “abominations,” but none of them was punished with death. “The breach of the ceremonial law results in separation from the cultic [religious] activity for a stated period. Breaking the moral law results in death or expulsion from the camp. Thus there is a qualitative difference between eating pork (Lev. 11:7) or shaving (Lev. 9:27) and cursing one’s parents (Lev. 20:9; [Mark 7:6–13]), adultery (Lev. 20:10), incest (Lev. 20:11–13) and homosexual practice.”10
Homosexual Objection 6
The homosexuality condemned in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 has to do with the “prohibition of idolatrous sexuality,” not with homosexuality per se.11
Biblical Response 6
This is an argument from silence. Even Boswell is not consistent with his claim: “Although both chapters also contain prohibitions (e.g., against incest and adultery) which might seem to stem from moral absolutes, their function in the context of Leviticus 18 and 20 seems to be as symbols of Jewish distinctiveness.”12 When he finds moral absolutes within the context of the prohibition against homosexuality, Boswell must abandon his original premise of the “prohibition of idolatrous sexuality” only.
Homosexual Objection 7
What is being prohibited in these passages is homosexual lust, not homosexual love.
Biblical Response 7
This, too, is an argument from silence. One would first have to prove that homosexuality was legitimate. Sexual lust is condemned for everyone (Matt. 5:28), so why single out homosexual lust as a separate category?
Homosexual Objection 8
Boswell argues that Romans 1:26–27 only appears to condemn homosexuality. He claims that Paul was criticizing sexual activity that is against a person’s nature. In Greek society, homosexuality and bisexuality were regarded as “natural” for some people. Paul was criticizing heterosexuals who were engaged in homosexual activities against their nature.13
Biblical Response 8
Of course, Boswell is begging the question. He assumes what he must prove, that homosexuality is “natural.” The Bible defines “natural” sexual relationships in Genesis 2:18–25. Jesus confirms this in Matthew 19:4–6: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’” Paul affirms what the Old Testament teaches about what’s sexually natural (Eph. 5:25–33; cf. 1 Cor. 7:2–3, 10–16; 1 Tim. 3:2, 12). Homosexual behavior is unnatural in terms of the sexual “equipment” used, self-inhibiting (no progeny except by artificial means), unsanitary, and disease causing (AIDS). Then there’s the further problem of determining what else might be “natural.” Pedophilia? Rape? Incest?
Jennifer Knapp is trying to find justification for her sexual choice. Her arguments are typical of those promoted by the homosexual community. If we look real hard, I bet pro-homosexual activist and former evangelical Mel White is the source of her arguments.
- Knapp has no problem using her own set of counter verses to “clobber” anti-homosexual passages. Why is it permissible for Christians to eat shell fish? It could be that in the New Testament Jesus declared all foods to be clean (Mark 7:19), and indication that the Gentiles are no longer to be considered “unclean” (Acts 10:13–15). Homosexuals argue that since Leviticus 18:19–23 and 20:10–16 are part of the “Holiness Code,” and they prohibit eating raw meat, planting two different kinds of seed in the same field and wearing garments with different kinds of yarn—and these laws no longer apply because they find their fulfillment in the redemptive work of Christ—then we can conclude that the prohibitions regarding homosexuality no longer apply since they are in the same code. The same Holiness Code that condemns homosexuality also prohibits adultery (Lev. 18:20), child sacrifice (v. 21), and sex with animals (v. 23). Is Ms. Knapp telling us that these are now acceptable alternative lifestyle choices? Leviticus 19 also prohibits stealing and lying (v. 11), oppressing neighbors and robbing them (v. 13), withholding wages from a laborer (v. 13), cursing the deaf and tripping the blind (v. 14), showing partiality in judicial matters (v. 15), slandering (v. 16), and taking vengeance (v. 18). Leviticus 20 repeats the prohibitions against child sacrifice (vv. 2–5), adultery (v. 10), homosexuality (v. 13), and bestiality (vv. 15–16). Are we to conclude, using Ms. Knapp’s logic, that these laws no longer apply today because they are found in the “Holiness Code”? [↩]
- Genesis 4:1, 17, 25; 19:5, 8; 24:16; 38:26; Numbers 31:17, 18, 35; Judges 11:39; 19:22, 25; 1 Samuel 1:19. [↩]
- John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), 93–94. [↩]
- Greg L. Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical View (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978), 33. [↩]
- Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 94. [↩]
- Bahnsen, Homosexuality, 59. [↩]
- Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 93. [↩]
- The Latin homo means “man.” In the Latin Vulgate, John 19:15 reads Ecce Homo, “Behold, the Man.” The original Greek is Ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος (Idou ho anthrōpos). [↩]
- Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 100. [↩]
- John N. Oswalt, “The Old Testament and Homosexuality,” What You Should Know About Homosexuality, ed. Charles W. Keysor (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 54–60. Quoted in Fowler and House, Civilization in Crisis, 129. [↩]
- Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 100. [↩]
- Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 100–101. [↩]
- “It cannot be inferred from this that Paul considered mere homoerotic attraction or practice morally reprehensible, since the passage strongly implies that he was not discussing persons who were by inclination gay and since he carefully observed, in regard to both the women and the men, that they changed or abandoned the ‘natural use’ to engage in homosexual activities.” (Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 112–113). [↩]