logo1 edited 1Join us on facebook

Tears in God's Wineskin: A Theology of Hospitality

Part 4: Appendix

Does the Bible Affirm Same-Sex Relationships?

If the Bible provides no blanket condemnation of homosexuality, except in terms of idolatry, exploitation and abuse, is it possible to find positive models of committed same-sex love in the pages of scripture? I propose that same-sex relationships are found in the Bible, both explicitly and implicitly, suggesting that the Bible is far more open to committed homosexual relationships than might be first considered. Such a presence would further argue for an acceptance of homosexuality being part of God’s diverse and imaginative creativity, which in turn challenges rigidly held negative assumptions and brings hope to Christian gay men and lesbians who face hostility and homophobia as expressed by their more conservative brethren.


 David and Jonathan

The strongest Old Testament presentation of male-to-male romantic love is the relationship between David and Jonathan. Traditionally, they are presented as striking a political covenant with each other and developing a deep, non-sexual friendship. Many might argue that since homosexuality is forbidden in the Bible, David and Jonathan could not possibly have been gay, reasoned on the basis of God’s blessing and approval of their relationship, the Jews’ attitude towards David and Jonathan in general and from how biblical authors regarded them highly and with great affection. Similarly, it is pointed out that things such as erotic language and Middle Eastern men kissing were common to the age and did not necessarily indicate a relationship beyond the platonic. While such points are valid, nevertheless the portrayal of these two men, across substantial biblical text, the language used concerning them, what each says of the other, and the events that unfold between them add up to significant evidence that reveals a bond between these two biblical heroes that went far beyond close friendship.

David and Jonathan made time to be alone together, reaffirming their love and commitment each time and establishing three covenants to reflect their commitment to each other. The first covenant was made shortly after they first met (1 Sam 18:3-4). We are told, “Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul (nephesh).  Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”  Jonathan’s love is emphasised as intense, spontaneous and completely unexpected. His giving to David his clothing, armour and weapons is an outward showing of, as Hans Herzberg observes, a “giving away one’s own self;” [1] Jonathan gives his inner self and, symbolically, his princely status to David. The second covenant was made towards the end of their time together in Gibeah.  "THus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying 'May the Lord seek out the enemies of David.'  Jonathan made David swear again, by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life." (1 Sam 20:16-17).

In contrast to the first promise, the second covenant includes romantic and political elements and is followed by, "Then Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying 'The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever'" (1 Sam 20: 42).  It is notable in the passage that aheb/ahaba (“love/loved”) and “his own life” (nephesh) are again emphasisedThe third covenant was made some years later when the two men recognise that it is David, not Jonathan, who will be the next king and that Jonathan intends to be at David’s side in full support. 1 Sam 23:17-18 records the episode and the next verse states, "Then the two of them made a covenant before the Lord" (1 Sam 23: 19).  Rather than being mere repetition of the previous covenants, the third might be regarded as a “fresh, bilateral covenant defining their new relationship,” as Ronald Youngblood points out, [2] or a simple reminder that “mutual promises [of love and faithfulness] cannot be reiterated too often,” as Walter Breuggemann suggests. [3]

King Saul’s furious outburst against Jonathan reveals more than anger: “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?” (1 Sam 20:30). Saul insults his son in two ways. Firstly, by slandering Jonathan’s mother as a “perverse and rebellious woman,” in other words calling her unfaithful or even a whore, Saul calls his own son illegitimate. Secondly, Saul ridicules Jonathan’s relationship with David. The Hebrew of this passage is ambiguous, and in the Septuagint Greek can easily be rendered “Do I not know that you are an intimate companion to the son of Jesse?” Since the words that translate into “shame” and “nakedness” are common Hebrew ways to refer to sex, usually in a neutral sense, rather than negative, Saul’s insinuation is intentionally sexual; he derides Jonathan’s sexual liaison with David, a matter the entire court of King Saul would have known about. In Hebrew, the speech is vulgar and offensive, the modern day equivalent being a declaration that his son is basically a “pansy” or “shirt-lifter”. However, it should be remembered, that at the heart of Saul’s hateful outburst is rivalry over the throne of Israel, which Saul believes his disloyal son would happily see pass to David; this is not a father’s social comment on the sexuality of his son.    


Following Saul’s vitriol, Jonathan, “rose from the table in fierce anger” and left; he ate nothing at all that day, because "he was grieved for David, and because his father had disgraced him" (1 Sam 20:32-34).   Some scholars like Ralph Klein believe the one referred to as disgraced is David, [4] others such as P. Kyle McCarter think it refers to Jonathan. [5] It would certainly seem to be Jonathan who had been shamed at the table, but it is also likely he was hurt and angry because of the danger his beloved David was now in. Saul’s deteriorating attitude toward David becomes clear, as revealed by Klein who astutely points out, Saul’s address of David gradually changes from calling him “David,” (1 Sam 16:22; 18:11,22), to using his family name, “son of Jesse” (1 Sam 20:27,30,31), to finally condemning him as “son of death,” (1 Sam 20: 31). [6]

The author of 1 and 2 Samuel is clearly attuned to David’s male beauty (1 Sam 16:12); the story of love and loyalty is marked by romance (1 Sam 18:1-5), secret meetings (1 Sam 20:1-23, 35-42), refusal to eat (1 Sam 28:32-34), kissing and weeping (1 Sam 20:41), and the explicit warrior/lover covenant which David maintains even after Jonathan’s death (1 Sam 20:12-17, 42). For fifteen years, David and Jonathan were able to meet without Saul ever discovering David’s whereabouts, even when Saul put out a contract on David’s life and offered huge rewards to anyone who would help him kill David. This strongly implies that the warriors of Saul, Jonathan and David enabled the men to meet safely to continue their relationship. When King Saul’s instability, hatred of David and death threats against him finally force David into exile, he spends the time he has left not with his wife Michal, but with Jonathan. At their parting, the two men express intense sorrow and deep loss for having to leave each other: “David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other. David wept more. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’ He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city” (1 Sam 20:41-42).

Finally, at Jonathan’s death, David laments for the man he loved, expressing deep feelings and stating what the love of Jonathan meant to him: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant you have been to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Sam 1:26). To make David’s statement refer merely to platonic friendship understands the text inadequately, not least because Jewish men in the ancient Middle East simply did not share close, platonic relationships with women who were not related by blood or marriage. Some scholars, however, are more sceptical, such as Peter Everard Coleman who considers that, “no implication of a homosexual relationship in modern terms is made in the biblical narrative of the friendship between these men,” concluding that David’s words should be taken metaphorically rather than as an implication that David preferred homosexual sex with Jonathan over heterosexual sex with women, and that David and Jonathan simply had a strong emotional friendship which David valued more than sexual relations with women.[7] A huge compliment to Jonathan when we consider how irresistibly drawn David was to Bathsheba.  

Could the relationship between David and Jonathan have been only a deep and faithful friendship? It is certainly possible. However, their relationship parallels significantly with that of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, commonly accepted to be homosexual, in the ancient Sumerian epic. In other words, the relationship of David and Jonathan fits the model of noble military lovers, commonly accepted and highly respected throughout the societies of the ancient Middle East, where Israel was situated. Such relationships are well documented in regard to Athenian pederasty, the male lovers within Spartan ranks, the famous band of soldier lovers of Thebes, similar accounts can be found relating to Celtic warriors, and also Samurai warriors with their male partners. [8] Importantly, these warrior male-to-male relationships were so taken for granted there would be no need to detail them explicitly. At the very least, one cannot read the account without concluding that Jonathan was absolutely the love of David’s life.    

As a final thought, a strong case can be made that David was a homosexual, even accepting his eventual obligation as king to produce heirs. Therefore, if David were gay, it is highly significant to note that he is the only man in the Bible, other than Jesus, of whom it is stated, he was “. . . a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14); a tremendously hopeful and joyous sentiment for any gay Christian struggling with the views of mainstream, conservative churches.


Ruth and Naomi

The Book of Ruth recounts the unusual but powerful commitment between the Moabite woman Ruth and her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. After the death of her husband, in complete contrast to the customs of the day and unlike her sister-in-law, Ruth remains with Naomi. Ruth “clings” (dabaq) to Naomi, we are told in Ruth 1:14, and interestingly the same Hebrew word is used in Genesis 2:24 referring to a man “holding fast” to his wife, although it should be noted that the word is also often used in a non-erotic sense [9] and is the same word used in Ruth 2:8 and 2:21 when Boaz tells Ruth to stay close to the young men who are harvesting and in Ruth 2:23 when she stays close to the young women, relating simply to superficial acquaintanceship.

Nevertheless, to understand the full impact of Ruth and Naomi’s relationship we should remember that, during their time, women could generally hold only two acceptable places in society, either as a daughter in their father’s household or as a wife in their husband’s household. A woman without father or husband had no social standing and the Old Testament refers to various stories in which widows almost starve to death. [10] The biblical command to look after widows and orphans is constant throughout the Old and New Testaments and reflects the Hebrew understanding that widows were among the most vulnerable people in society. This context makes Ruth’s decision truly astonishing. Naomi recognizes her fate as a widow and decides to return to her father’s family in Bethlehem. She counsels her daughters-in-law to do likewise and return to their own families where they may have futures, because she realises she is in no position to offer support and fears she may only be a burden.

Ruth however, declares to Naomi, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die - and there I will be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17). This pledge of absolute love and commitment is so impressive that the passage is often read at contemporary marriage ceremonies, even though few people realise that this expression of devotion is from one woman to another. Ruth is not speaking of some theoretical future but of the stark reality that her decision to place her life in the hands of another woman could result in death. Returning to their respective families would provide some assurance of survival for each woman, but rather than make this choice, Ruth and Naomi remain together.

Following Ruth’s words to Naomi the scriptures speak of the two women’s life together, chronicling how Ruth cared for Naomi by taking the only job available to a husbandless woman, gleaning. Ruth’s marriage to Boaz is portrayed as one of convenience, contrived to sustain the women through widowhood. There is no mention of Ruth’s love for her husband and, when Ruth bears a son from her marriage, the text focuses on Naomi and her reaction to the news rather than the response of Boaz as the father. The women of the village remind Naomi that Ruth “Who loves you, is more to you than seven sons” (Ruth 4:15) and announce that “a son has been born to Naomi” (Ruth 4:17).

For the two women, the most important relationship in their lives is the one they share. Ruth gave up everything to be with Naomi; she put her life at risk in order to care for the older woman; and after marrying Boaz, it is Naomi who remains Ruth’s closest companion. It is difficult to explain merely as friendship the depth of emotion and level of commitment between the two women and, with preconceptions set aside, the book of Ruth certainly reads like a story of two women in love. It also seems somehow inconsistent that Ruth’s vows to Naomi, which so perfectly sum up and celebrate spousal love, can be dismissed as spoken only in friendship.

Very little is known about the world of women in antiquity in general, so it must be conceded that it is impossible to say whether or not they shared a sexual relationship, but whether celibate or sexually intimate, Ruth’s loyalty is without doubt to Naomi, over and above her own people, as Theodore Jennings observes, “The story of Ruth and Naomi serves to depict what it means to have steadfast love, what it means to ‘cleave to one another,’ what it means to be knit together as one soul. It shows what it means for the love of two persons of the same sex to love one another in ways that ‘surpass’ the more structured heterosexual relationships within patriarchal culture.” [11]

Ruth pledges herself to Naomi; the two women rely on each other for sustenance; Ruth’s marriage to Boaz, far from being romantic, is a matter of family duty and property and she redeems Naomi’s family status by bearing her a child, the women surrounding them declaring that a son has been “born to Naomi,” not to Boaz. Ultimately, Ruth’s vow to die and be buried with Naomi would have been understood as an oath of commitment usually made between betrothed couples, not as a promise made in friendship, however strong. What is clear is that the two women shared a lifelong, passionate and committed relationship celebrated in their own book in the Bible.


Daniel and the Chief Eunuch

The Book of Daniel offers an additional possible positive biblical reference to intimate same-sex relationships. Dan 1:9 reads, “Now God allowed Daniel to receive favour and compassion from the palace master.” Another translation renders this verse as, “By the grace of God Daniel met goodwill and sympathy on the part of the chief eunuch.” However, the text could equally be translated to read that Daniel received “devoted love”. It is interesting to note that current scholarship is beginning to recognise that natural eunuchs, or ‘eunuchs of the sun,’ were in fact fully intact homosexuals rather than castrated heterosexual men, hence the almost unlimited trust placed in them to care for and watch over the women of the court. [12] This also makes greater sense of rabbinical literature such as the Mishnah tractate Yebamoth 8.4 in which rabbis debate the differences between castrated eunuchs (sěrîs ’ādām) and natural eunuchs (sěrîs ḥammâ), suggesting ways in which the natural eunuch could be identified as effeminate and perhaps even healed from what the rabbis considered to be an inappropriate condition, unlike the castrated eunuch. With this in mind, the passage concerning Daniel and Ashpenaz the Chief Eunuch can certainly be read as a romantic friendship rather than an act of simple goodwill. If Daniel’s role in Nebuchadnezzar’s court included a homosexual liaison with the palace master, such a romantic connection might explain, at least in part, why Daniel’s career at court advanced so favourably.      

Did Daniel and Ashpenaz have a homoerotic relationship? In the end, the historical evidence to argue with certainty for such a relationship is simply not there. The elder eunuch might have experienced sexual feelings toward the very attractive, youthful Daniel, but whether anything happened sexually between them is actually unlikely.  Since Daniel was the king’s property and set aside to one day serve the king it would have been an extreme risk for the palace master to engage him in any kind of physical intimacy. If news of the relationship leaked out across the royal court, the chief eunuch would have forfeited his life and Ashpenaz did not rise to his position without understanding how to exercise control and discretion.  Daniel’s life as a eunuch at the Babylonian court was most likely celibate. However, the question remains legitimate and the possibility of a homosexual relationship in the life of such an important biblical character is, in itself, worthy of note.



While we know nothing about Joseph in terms of intimate relationship beyond those with his family and that Pharaoh gave him Asenath an Egyptian wife, I include Joseph in this section because of the fascination that arises over his supposed ‘robe of many colours’ actually being properly understood as being the dress of a princess and thus questioning whether Joseph may have been a gay man or a transgendered person. At the very least the implication is that Joseph was a man who wore female clothing, accepted and even encouraged by his father, Israel, who had the dress made for his son and, as Jennings interestingly notes, “The transvesting of Joseph seems to run counter to the (later) legal code in Deuteronomy 22:5, which proscribes cross-dressing.” [13]

Most Bible versions translate the Hebrew kethoneth passim as ‘richly ornamented robe’ (NIV), ‘decorated tunic’ (NJV), or ‘elaborately embroidered coat’ (Message), and if a footnote is included it will tell us that the Hebrew is unclear. However, turn to 2 Samuel 13:18 and the meaning is without question: “She was wearing a richly ornamented robe (kethoneth passim), for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore.” Joseph’s colourful robe was a dress made for a virgin princess. Whatever we may conclude from this, whether Joseph was gay, transgendered or a cross-dressing heterosexual, we know from the Genesis account that God favoured Joseph, cared for him and blessed him abundantly.


The Roman Centurion and his Pais (Bed Slave)

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and suffering.” Jesus told him, “I shall come and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed.” And his servant was healed at that moment. (Mt. 8:5-13; Lk. 7:2-10)

According to Matthew’s Gospel a Roman centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his slave. The Gospel of Luke records that this was a highly favoured slave, an entimos duolos, and dear to the centurion. Matthew further employs the noteworthy word of status, pais or bed slave. When we combine the information from Luke and Matthew there is significant evidence that the centurion and this particularly considered slave are homosexual partners. Scholars like Wendy Cotter [14] and Stephen Moore [15] understand pais as being reference to a child or a servant who is younger than the adult master and certainly ‘child’ is the preferred definition found in standard language dictionaries. [16] James Neill offers that pais most often means a young male lover, believing the word ‘pais’, compounded with ‘erasthai’ (to love) provides the root of ‘pederasty.’ [17] Luke additionally uses pais to describe Israel as God's servant (1:54) and David being the Lord’s servant (1:69), neither of which are references to homosexuality. Some commentators suggest the centurion's servant is an adopted son, hence his being precious to the centurion and described as a uniquely favoured slave, representative of his status. However, it is realistic to conclude that this event concerns a gay man seeking healing for his sick partner. The text describes the centurion as having deep feelings for this faithful and terribly ill slave, to the point of humbling himself before a Jewish Rabbi and known healer, in the hope of receiving help from this holy man, despite being a gentile and Roman occupier. He may have been simply a loving and benevolent master of a slave he loved as a friend and companion. However, the key to fully understanding this event lies in comprehending the term pais in its historical setting, language and in context of the biblical data, which together strongly imply an erotic relationship.

When the word pais is examined, a full understanding of it relies on its translation within the context being used. From ancient literature whether fiction, political or social comment, satire or biblical text, it is the context that informs the meaning of pais each time. In general, it could mean son (Jn. 4:51) or boy (cf. Mt. 2:16; Lk. 2:43, 17:18; Jn. 4:51; and even 8:51-54 where it refers to a girl), a slave (Lk. 15:26, Acts 4:25), or a same-sex male lover, [18] which would also make this pericope the only biblical reference to a same-sex lover if the rendering of pais as a bed slave is correct. In some biblical text it is actually unclear what pais means at all (Acts 3:13, 3:26, 4:27, 4:30). In Luke 7:2, the sick pais is referred to as the centurion’s entimos duolos. [19] Importantly, duolos, the generic term for slave, was simply not used in ancient Greek literature to describe a son or boy so the young man here was certainly a purchased slave and not the centurion’s son or adopted son. Entimos, meaning highly honoured, dear or precious, confirms that the young man is favoured in the extreme, perhaps regarded as indispensable, not an unusual circumstance for a humanitarian master who valued his slaves, but because he is also the centurion’s pais, as Matthew points out, he cannot be a mere servant among other servants and the centurion plainly draws a distinction between this slave and his other slaves. When the three possible meanings are carefully considered contextually, ‘son,’ ‘adopted son’ and the generic form of ‘slave’ must be ruled out. This leaves only the possibility that this pais was indeed the centurion’s male lover.

In today’s world view we find it difficult to comprehend that slaves taken as lovers at that time were usually younger than their masters, often teenagers, and the predominant means of forming intimate relationships was via commercial transaction and perfectly within the law of the day. A wife was considered the property of the husband, with a status only just above that of a slave and in the time of Jesus, a boy or a girl, whether Greek or Jew, was viewed as marriageable in their early teens. It was not uncommon for an older man to marry a young girl and Mary, the mother of Jesus, for example, was most likely 13 or 14 years of age when betrothed to Joseph. A homosexual man who wanted a male spouse procured him in exactly the same way a heterosexual man would find a wife, by purchasing a young man to serve that purpose; and such a servant would be a pais.

Distinctively, the centurion speaks very differently whether referring to his pais or to his slaves in general. Matthew records the centurion expressing his faith in Jesus’ power to heal by speaking of his own authority over his slaves: “When I tell my servant to do something, he does it” (8:9). When speaking of his slaves, the centurion uses the generic doulos, but when speaking of the one he is asking Jesus to heal, he consistently uses pais, drawing a contrast between his pais and his other slaves. Paralleling his faith, the centurion reveals that he understands that Jesus has the authority to remotely command the performance of an action without question. Throughout the Gospels are examples of people seeking healing for themselves or for family members, but this is a unique account of someone seeking healing for a slave. In the brutal reality of ancient ‘throw away’ Greek or Roman societies, it was completely acceptable for a sick or dead slave to simply be replaced with another, making this account all the more fascinating. Why would a Roman centurion show such compassion for a young male slave? It is also remarkable that a Roman centurion, highly regarded not only by his own people but also the local Jews, would humble himself before a Jewish rabbi and entreat him to heal his slave. However, perhaps the reason for this is simple - the centurion wanted his pais healed because this particular slave was his spouse and he loved him.

Arguments that the Bible regards homosexuality as wrong in every instance and therefore the centurion’s slave could not have been his male lover, or that Jesus would never have healed a gay man because the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination and Jesus knew his Bible, tend to be circular in nature and based on the understanding that biblical negativity towards particular homosexual activity in relation to idolatry, abuse and exploitation equally covers committed and loving same-sex partnerships. Regrettably, with this view at the fore, any argument for the significance of the Matthean passage tends to be dismissed immediately without the consideration it deserves.

Jesus certainly healed and ministered to the righteous and sinners alike during his ministry and perhaps an appropriate contrast to this event would be the account of the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. He tells those ready to condemn the ‘harlot’ to death by stoning, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone” and one by one those bringing the charge of adultery drop their stones and disperse. Jesus then asks the woman where her accusers are, and she answers that none are present, so he tells her, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” We might wonder if the centurion, as he made his way to Jesus, worried about the possibility that this rabbi, like some Jewish rabbis, might take a dim view of his homosexual relationship. He could have side-stepped the issue entirely by using only duolos in reference to his pais, but if he appreciated that Jesus had power to heal his lover, it is also likely he understood that Jesus would discern any half-truths and see right through them. Jesus responds to the centurion’s honesty and faith without hesitation, saying, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion tells Jesus there is no need, that his word is sufficient, and yet rather than tell the centurion, ‘he is healed, go and sin no more,’ as he did with the adulterous woman, Jesus declares to everyone around them, “I have not found faith this great anywhere in Israel.” He holds up the centurion as an inspirational example of a person of faith others should aspire to being. Perhaps the inclusion of this account in Gospel text was originally intended to teach that faith is the key to participating in the Kingdom of God, through the agency of Christ, not status or ethnicity or, for that matter, sexuality.

Daniel Helminiak [20] and Tom Horner [21] both argue that the centurion’s unusual concern suggests a homosexual theme to the narrative, with Horner purporting that the use of entimos duolos strongly implies a sexual relationship. Horner further argues that, since Jesus commends the centurion for his faith it presents Jesus as approving of their relationship, otherwise he would have surely condemned them both. Other scholars dismiss such arguments as deliberate distortion of the text and suggest that the use of entimos duolos actually clarifies the absence of sexual connotation, although none clearly establish how this is so. Paul Marston argues that Jesus would not have condoned a homosexual relationship in the light of scriptural evidence. Unfortunately, this only serves to return us to a circular argument where presumption is instigated before the argument is made. Patrick Chapman suggests that even if the centurion and servant had a homosexual relationship, Jesus’ lack of condemnation does not equate to his approval of them. [22] This might be a valid comment if Jesus never openly disapproved of anyone, but from his dealings with certain groups, such as the Pharisees, we know this is not the case. Regrettably, no standard professional Greek lexicon or dictionary identifies pais as meaning a homosexual partner. [23] However, it is worth noting that as with most marketed academic reference products there is a requirement to keep unorthodox or alternative definitions to a strict minimum or omit them entirely if publication is to be ensured; and human habit tends to reinforce what may be held as core values rather than challenge them.



When biblical translation is understood purely from a literal perspective and the surface value alone is taken to be the true and only meaning, then on this basis the Bible can be said to condemn homosexuality and homosexual people. However, an historical-critical approach where biblical text is understood as best as can be determined from its language, context and the culture into which it originally speaks, enables us to realise that the Bible does not address today’s questions concerning sexual ethics and morality and neither does it speak of sexual orientation as is understood today. What the Bible condemns is not loving, faithful same-sex relationships as understood today but rather specific same-sex behaviours related to idolatry, abuse and exploitation.

Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for homosexuality but for a complete breakdown of hospitality reflected in idolatry, xenophobia and total moral breakdown. Leviticus addressed the issue of Canaanite fertility cult temple prostitution and the temptation for a holy people to abandon their unique identity as followers of the God of Israel alone and turn to multiple fertility gods with earthly promises of prosperity. St Paul’s concern in his letter to the Romans was not with same-sex relations as instances of impurity but to convince his readers that as the people of God it is the Creator and not what is created who is worthy of worship and devotion; similarly in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy what Paul condemns is exploitative and abusive sex, not same-sex relations in general. Jude condemns lusting after angels, not intimacy between men and Peter simply refers to Sodom’s destruction as an example of divine wrath upon the ungodly.

When all is considered, biblical text neither addresses nor answers the question of whether homosexuality and homosexual relationships are good or evil. In fact, the Bible appears to be deliberately unconcerned with homosexuality as a general human issue, while the same cannot be said of heterosexuality. However, this does not mean that for Christian homosexuals and lesbians anything goes. Sexual orientation, whether straight or gay needs to be guided by the core moral teachings of the Bible which are not unclear or blurred in any sense: reverence for God, respect for others, prayerfulness, being honest and just, forgiving and merciful and being loving and kind. In other words, loving God fully with heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving neighbour as self.



[1] Hans Hertzberg, I & II Samuel: A Commentary (London: SCM Press, Old Testament Library, 1964), p.155.

[2] Ronald Youngblood, 1 and 2 Samuel: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. III, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervann, 1992), p.741.

[3] Walter Breuggemann, First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990), p.164-165.

[4] Ralph W. Klein, 1 Samuel: Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.10 [General Eds. David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker; Old Testament Ed. John D. Watts; New Testament Ed. Ralph P. Martin], (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1983), p.209

[5] P. Kyle McCarter, I Samuel, Anchor Bible (New York: Double Day, 1980), p.340.

[6] Ralph W. Klein, 1 Samuel, p.210.

[7] Peter Everard Coleman, Christian Attitudes to Homosexuality (London: SPCK Publications, 1980), p.48.

[8] See Theodore W. Jennings Jnr, “YHWH as Erestes” in, Ken Stone (Ed.) Queer Commentary on the Hebrew Bible (JSOTS 334: London & New York, Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), p.36-74; see also David F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1990), p.111, and 242-98.

[9] See for example Ezek. 3:26 “I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth.” Deut. 11:22, “hold fast” to the LORD; 28:21, “The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess;” 30:20, “hold fast” to the LORD. Jer. 13:11, “For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the Lord.” Psalm 22:15, “. . .my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” 2 Kings 5:27, “Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.”

[10] See the stories of widows who came to Elijah and Elisha for help (1 Kings 17:10-24 and 2 Kings 4:1-37) and the story of the Tekoan woman who confronted David (2 Sam. 14:4-12). Similarly, in Genesis 38, Judah tells his daughter-in-law Tamar to return to her father’s house, because her husband has died, illustrating the two possible statuses available to women.

[11] Theodore Jennings Jnr, Jacob’s Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel (New York and London: Continuum, 2005), p.233.

[12] Scholars and interested parties considering the possibility that natural eunuchs were homosexuals include Daniel Helminiak, Faris Malik, Jeff Miner, John Taylor, Nancy Wilson, Farouk Martins Aresa and Romell D. Weekly.

[13] Jennings, Jacob’s Wound, p.190.

[14] Wendy J. Cotter, The Christ of the Miracle Stories: Portrait Through Encounter (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), p.125.

[15] Stephen D. Moore, God’s Beauty Parlour: And Other Queer Spaces in and Around the Bible (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), p.257.

[16] See for example H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) where three meanings of παίς are listed: a child in relation to descent (son or daughter); a child in relation to age (boy or girl); a slave or servant (male or female). In the case of slave the word is usually accompanied by the masculine article.

[17] James Neill, The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in human Societies (Jefferson, NC: Mc Farland and Company, 2009), p.216.

[18] See Kenneth J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), p.16; also Bernard Sergent, Homosexuality in Greek Myth [trans. of L'homosexualité dans la mythologie grecque], (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), p.10.

[19] James Strong, Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 2007), 1784, from 1401 and 5092: “valued (figuratively); dear, more honourable, precious, in reputation.”

[20] Daniel A. Helminiak, My Take: What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality (Article for CNN News Website, Belief Blog), Available online at: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/15/my-take-what-the-bible-really-says-about-homosexuality/

[21] Tom Horner, The Centurion’s Servant, in Insight: A Quarterly of Gay Catholic Opinion (Vol.2, No 3, Summer 1978).

[22] Patrick Chapman, Homosexuals in the Bible: Jesus, John, the Centurion and the Slave? Rainbow Journal Olympia (Vol.2 [1] November, 2005).                                                                                                                                                            

[23] See for example, Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich [eds.], Geoffrey Bromiley [trans.], Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol.5 (of 10) (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1968); Colin Brown [ed.], New International Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol.2 (of 4) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986); Horst Balz & Gerhard Schneider [eds.], Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol.2 (of 3) (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999); Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott [eds.], Henry Stuart Jones & Roderick McKenzie [trans.], A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th Edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996); Frederick William Danker & Walter Bauer [eds.], A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament & Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1992).