Last week I mentioned that during the last 35 years, there has been a growing movement within the evangelical community to affirm the homosexual lifestyle. This movement has gained momentum from the increasing acceptance of homosexuality within our own culture. There has been an appeal to Scripture and a reinterpretation of some passages traditionally used to condemn homosexual activity. Since a proper understanding of what the Bible says is of utmost importance to how we live as followers of Jesus, regardless of what our culture advocates, it is essential that we interpret the Scriptures properly.
Over the next few weeks, I would like to look at some of the major passages of the Bible concerning homosexuality. I would like to show how these passages have been traditionally understood within the evangelical church, then how they have been reinterpreted to affirm the homosexual lifestyle. Finally I would like to respond accordingly with an appraisal. You will need your Bible to look up these passages for yourself. The next text is GENESIS 19:1-10:
Traditional View: The men of Sodom were trying to gain a sexual encounter with the men (angels) who came to visit Lot. This narrative has been so identified with homosexuality that the term sodomy has been commonly used to describe homosexual activity. Sodom was subsequently destroyed as a judgment against such perversity.
Reinterpretation: This passage does not even speak of homosexuality. Rather, Sodom was overthrown because of its “inhospitality” to strangers. Lot violated the custom of the city by entertaining guests without the permission of the village elders. Therefore, these men who came to Lot’s door were merely trying to find out the identity of the visitors. The word “to know” in verse five does not necessarily have sexual overtones. The Hebrew word yada is used 943 times in the Old Testament, only fourteen of those times does the term carry a sexual meaning. Elsewhere it is translated “to get acquainted with, to have knowledge of.” The judgment of God against Sodom is mentioned in the rest of Scripture for things other than homosexuality—i.e., pride, lack of concern for the poor, lying and adultery (Ezek.16:49; Jer.23:14).
Appraisal: Here we need a lesson in the three important aspects of biblical interpretation: context, content and correlation. First, in order to study the context you need to ask questions of the text: Why was Lot horrified that the strangers wanted to stay overnight in the town square? Why did Lot tell the men of Sodom, “please do not act wickedly” if all they wanted to do was to meet the strangers? Why did Lot offer his virgin daughters to the men of Sodom to rape? Why were the men of Sodom struck blind by the angels?
Second, as we look at the content we notice the term yada and see that it is used twelve times in Genesis and ten of those times it denotes sexual intercourse. In fact, just two verses after the men asked Lot to bring out the strangers so they might “know” them, Lot offered his daughters who had never “known” a man. So, the text seems to be saying that what we have is not so much an issue of inhospitality as much as a threat of homosexual rape.
Third, once you interpret the context and content of a passage you move to see how it stacks up with the rest of Scripture- how your interpretation correlates. We conclude that just because homosexuality was not the only sin for which Sodom was judged does not mean it wasn’t one of the sins that led to its destruction. It is true that Ezek.16:49 and Jer.23:14 mention such sins as adultery, lying, arrogance, lack of concern for the poor and needy. However, Ezek. 16:50, 2 Peter 2:7; Jude 7 mention “detestable things, sensual conduct, gross immorality and abomination.” So we conclude that the city was not destroyed only for the sin of homosexuality, but we can easily see that homosexuality was just one thread in the sinful tapestry of Sodom that merited God’s judgment, especially since they refused repentance.
Next week: LEVITICUS 18:22; 20:13