The Apostle Paul and Homosexuality—Answering Homosexual Objections (Part 1)

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Paul on homosexuality
(BarbWire)

Objection #2: The apostle Paul had no concept of sexual orientation.

To begin with, such an assertion denies the critically important doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). Since the apostle Paul wrote every biblical word as he was "carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21), his psycho-social knowledge of homosexuality is irrelevant. First Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 were actually written by the God who knows all things.

Not that I am agreeing with the popular, contemporary understanding of "sexual orientation," but such theories are actually nothing new. In fact, the great minds of the Greco-Roman world posited several hypotheses, each of which argued for a congenital, biological or other unchosen basis for homosexual attraction. The proposed theories are found in numerous sources including Platonic, Aristotelian, Hippocratic and even astrological texts.

They include the following:

1. A creation narrative involving the splitting of three original types of binary humans (Plato's Symposium, 189e-193c). As Robert Gagnon explains, "Aristophanes constructs a myth about human origins in which humans were once binary beings, one type consisting of man-man, another of female-female, and a third kind of male-female. When they attempted to extend their power to the heavens, Zeus sliced each in two and closed up the wounds. Ever since then, all humans long for their other half" (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 353).

2. A particular mix of male and female sperm elements at conception (Hippocratic treatise De Victu 1.28-29).

3. An inherited disease analogous to a mutated gene (Soranus, De Morbis Chronicis, 4.9.134-37).

4. Sperm ducts leading to the anus (Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1148b, lines 28-34; Pseudo-Aristotle, Prob. 4:26).

5. An inherited disease of the mind.

6. The particular alignment of the heavenly constellations at the time of one's birth.

7. And for women, the anatomical deformity of an overly large clitoris.

(The last three theories are described in Bernadette Brooten's Love Between Women, 140-141, 172, 242-43, 360-61; also John Boswell, Homosexuality, 52).

Some of the ancient theories are obviously closer to our modern explanations than others. What matters, though, is that many in the ancient world attributed one or more forms of homosexual practice to an interplay of nature and nurture. Others also viewed same-sex attractions as exclusive and very resistant to change. And every one of these theories predated the apostle Paul. So, he most certainly would have had access to, and heard about, such concepts. Yet, despite the fact that these theories were not foreign to first century, educated Jews, the apostle Paul nonetheless unequivocally condemned homosexual practice.

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