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[37] What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality – Daniel A. Helminiak

Prejudice and downright loathing for homosexuals must have inspired the writing of this book. It is a sad realization, in fact, reality, that Bible religion plays a pillar role in allowing the persecution to happen. Sexuality, at least in the regard of showing affection for one another, should be detached from any religious judgment because it is the core of human experience in which person gets emotionally close to another person and commits passionately to the person. Granted the affection is genuine and mutual, it should be recognized and honored regardless of sex. Embracing this firm belief Helminiak thrives to study, through a historically critical perspective, the Bible’s stand on the issue.

The hinge must lies in how the Bible is being read. According to Helminiak, the Bible supplies no basis for the condemnation of homosexuality. Why should God condemn homosexuality if all of us are part of God’s inscrutable and loving plan for us? Moreover mounting scientific evidence shows that homosexuality is not a choice. There is no credible evidence that sexual orientation can be changed or convincing argument that it should be.

The biblical scholarship has overturned inveterate beliefs that over the years the church has so meticulously imbued to me through selective use of scriptures. Popular culture, social taboo, and customs have stamped the seal of approval to these beliefs. But looking back at these teachings, they are nothing more than customs being adopted as the law. Helminiak’s position is forthright and is fueled by judicious assessment of historical-critical research. The Bible itself takes no direct stand on the morality of homogenital acts or on the morality of gay and lesbian relationships. Detailed study of language and translation confides that it makes no blanket condemnation of homogenital acts and even less of homosexuality. It is indifferent to homosexuality in itself.

When the Bible does talk about same-sex behavior, it refers to it as it was understood in those ancient times. In other words, hermeneutics from literary theory affords the importance of the biblical interpretation over time. Meaning of the scriptures remains the same but the significance fluctuates. The Bible must be situated within its historical horizon and be examined under the context of cultural meanings within which it was written. Therefore, the biblical teachings will apply today only insofar as the ancient understanding of same-sex behavior is still valid.

What does all this mean? To my understanding from Helminiak, the Bible is not addressing our current questions about sexual ethics. The Holiness Code embedded in Leviticus, for example, in the context of its historical horizon, spells out the requirements for Israel to remain holy, meaning to separate from the Gentiles. So Leviticus forbids homogenitality as a betrayal of Jewish identity. This concern about male-to-male sex is an offense against Jewish religion, not violation of the inherent nature of sex. No thought is given to whether the sex is right or wrong.

Paul’s letter to the Romans also presupposes the teaching of the Jewish Law in Leviticus, and Romans mentions male-to-male sex as an impurity. His usage of the word nature refers to circumstances when people do something surprising, something, unusual, something out of the ordinary or beyond the routine. The key in interpreting this passage is to recognize that Paul uses certain words for male-to-male sex. A study of these words (in Greek and Hebrew) shows that he makes no ethical condemnation of male-to-male sex, but merely points out the social disapproval of it.

Helminiak’s presentation of the highly debated translation of malakoi and arsenokoitai is somewhat disjointed, owing to the ambiguous nature of these words and the circumstances under which these words are used. For example, oute malakoi is translated as nor adulterers; while oute arsenokoitai is interpreted as nor homosexuals. Helminiak hastily concludes that if biblical treatment of same-sex acts shows Paul being indifferent to the matter, the benefit of the doubt about arsenokoitai should fall in the same direction. Helminiak’s argument for the favor stems from the lack of certainty about the meaning of the terms.

6 Responses

  1. I recently read a YA book (from the ALA banned and challenged list) called “Annie on my Mind.” The most disturbing part of this book is a busybody bible thumping secretary who turns friend against friend with bible passages she claims decry homosexuality. It’s revolting. I know this is probably apropos of nothing, but your post on this book made me think of that and how disgusting I found the whole ‘translate the bible to reinforce your own prejudices’ nonsense that is so prevalent.

  2. A friend of mine, who has been trained in historical theology and is a professor of religious studies, referred Helminiak’s book to me. It really does open my eyes to what the bible’s verdict on this sensitive issue that have entangled for 5000 years (that’s what the gay activists claim, at least!).

    My other circle of friends, with whom I used to go to church together, used to show me scriptures Helminiak mentioned in the book and tried to convert me back to heterosexuality, which they claim is God’s plan for us. Acting striaght does not bother me, but the fact that I’m deprived of the authenticity irritates me.

  3. A friend of mine, who has been trained in historical theology and is a professor of religious studies, referred Helminiak’s book to me. It really does open my eyes to what the bible’s verdict on this sensitive issue that have entangled for 5000 years (that’s what the gay activists claim, at least!).

    My other circle of friends, with whom I used to go to church together, used to show me scriptures Helminiak mentioned in the book and tried to convert me back to heterosexuality, which they claim is God’s plan for us. Acting striaght does not bother me, but the fact that I’m deprived of the authenticity irritates me.

  4. It’s been years since I’ve read that book, but it did make an impression upon me. I found the last chapter or two to be somewhat weak, but I think he successfully challenges most of the normal interpretations for these scriptures. “The Good Book” by Peter Gnomes(sp?) is also a good one, which touches on homosexuality and slavery.

    Regardless of whether someone goes to church or acts straight, he or she is still homosexual. This plea to love the homosexual as long as he or she is not practicing is ridculous. For one, I’m not an amateur, I’m a pro, so I don’t need to practice. Furthermore, do deny our sexuality is to dishonor ourselves for the way God created us.

  5. Jef-

    The scriptures which he challenge have over the years delivered a verdict that I’m doomed, that I’m despised by God and that he doesn’t want me. So the first peruse of the book opened my eyes. Having taken Greek in college, I looked up what some of the crucial terms mean.

    Sexuality is never a choice for me and I’m sure all the gays. Sexuality is visceral.To deny sexuality is to deny the whole self and negate one’s capability to love and to feel intimate with another human being. It’s the utmost human tragedy.

  6. […] fourth grade I knew I am attracted to men and this is something I’m born with. Until I read What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel A. […]

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