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Griffeth: Homosexuality and the UMC, Part 2

Griffeth: Homosexuality and the UMC, Part 2
Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

What is the sin in homosexuality?

By the Rev. James Ellis Griffeth

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series on homosexuality and a way forward for The United Methodist Church, excerpted from Griffeth’s fuller paper, ”An Introduction to the Biblical Texts (Re. Homosexuality) with Insights from the Quadrilateral.” Part 1 (September Advocate) talked about the context for such an exploration in light of the pending UMC Commission on Human Sexuality and the fear of a UMC split. Part 2, here, discusses specific Scripture as related to homosexuality. Part 3, next month, discusses homosexuality and the UMC Quadrilateral. Read Griffeth’s full paper here, and read his paper on the Wesleyan quadrilateral here.

What does Scripture say? It is a puzzlement that many people are content to say, “The Bible calls homosexuality a sin” without having studied what the Bible says about it and without considering the context in which the Bible speaks about it.

There are six Scripture verses that are most often quoted as opposing homosexuality. The reader is urged to read not just the verse or two directly about homosexuality, but the verses above and below that form the context of the statements.

The six passages are:

1) Genesis 19:1-11, particularly 19:5 in which “know” means “have sex with”;

2) Leviticus 18:17-23, particularly 18:22;

3) Leviticus 20:8-21, particularly 20:13;

4) Romans 1:26-32, particularly 1:26-27;

5) 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, particularly 6:9, which cites “sodomites” in NRSV and “both participants in same sex intercourse” in CEB; and

6) 1 Timothy 1:9-10, particularly 1:10, which cites “sodomites” in NRSV and “people who have intercourse with the same sex” in CEB.

A longer paper exploring these six passages in some detail is available. See the editor’s note for access to that paper.

A very brief summary of that exploration of these six references follows:

Genesis 19 is a story of the threat of the men of Sodom to gang rape the angels/messengers/men sent to Lot. The threat of homosexual rape is an angry act of rejection, defilement, degradation and humiliation.

The two Leviticus references are part of the “Holiness Code” (Leviticus 17-27). That code seeks to prescribe various actions and condemn other actions in order to promote holiness among the people. Also, in Old Testament days, the Jewish people were so often beset (and defeated) by neighbor nations that a “siege mentality” was developed, which included a strong bias that every sex act should have the potential to produce another little Hebrew.

In Romans 1:26-27, Paul’s argument against homosexuality is that “same-sex” activity interferes with one’s relationship with God and with other persons, because there is something “unnatural” at the core of it. Paul does not state what is unnatural. This understanding may reflect Paul’s deep grounding in Jewish teaching, especially the siege mentality bias. Meanwhile, Paul’s preference was that all Christians be celibate.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul appears to address issues from the Greco-Roman Gentile context in which much of his ministry occurred. It seems clear that Paul is here condemning the Roman understanding, i.e., that it was acceptable (even admirable) to be the masculine (macho) participant in a same-sex encounter, but not acceptable to be the weak/receptive participant (who was “like a woman”). Clearly Paul would oppose the various ways in which non-consensual sex (same-sex and opposite-sex) was easily forced upon underlings with impunity within in the Roman world. It also likely addresses the issue of having sex with a temple prostitute (male or female) as an act of worship in certain Greco-Roman religious cults.

1 Timothy 1:9-10 addresses similar issues as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and includes other sins that unrighteous people might commit.

The Bible does not address the issue of consensual same-sex relationships with equal partners mutually involved.

 

What is the sin?

All of the above leads to a big question that is hardly ever mentioned: “What is the sin in homosexuality?” Consider the possibilities:

Is the sin of homosexuality the sin of having sex in a way that cannot produce offspring? If so, perhaps it would be a sin for heterosexual married couples to engage in sexual activity in circumstances (infertility or using contraception) in which a child cannot be conceived. Some Christians have that belief, but that would seem a strange belief for almost all members of the UMC.

Is the sin of homosexuality the domination, humiliation and actual harm inflicted when persons are coerced unwillingly into homosexual activities by a person with the power to command such? All Christians would agree that such coercion (and its results) would be sin, but is it sin when the sexual activity is mutual and consensual?

Is the sin of homosexuality the physical attraction that some men feel for men (or that some women feel for women) rather than feeling the attraction to persons of the other gender? A common modern expression is “We can’t control how we feel, but we are responsible for our actions.” If married heterosexuals sometimes feel attraction to persons of the other gender (not the marriage partner) but decide to refrain from acting on those feelings for the sake of the partnered relationship, they would be applauded for their faithfulness. So where is the sin for partnered homosexuals who behave with similar restraint?

Is the sin of homosexuality the disobedience of the word of God in the six noted passages regarding homosexuality in the Bible? If the sole criterion is a literalist interpretation of the six passages with no consideration of context or concerns about the intentions of meaning of the ancient words and texts, then the answer is, “Yes, disobedience in the sin.” But Methodism has not embraced the literalist interpretations that have been promoted by our ultraconservative and fundamentalist brothers and sisters for the past century and a quarter.

Since the time of the Wesleys, Methodism has embraced four standards for evaluating theology and biblical interpretation; they are Scripture, which is primary, tradition, reason and experience. Working together and informing each other, they guide us in making theological judgments and ethical decisions. In recent decades, taken together, they have become known as the Quadrilateral. It may be that by using the Quadrilateral, it can be determined that homosexuality may be faithful Christian practice in some situations.

Is the sin of homosexuality the desire of committed (and faithful) same-sex couples to share in the activities of life and to share emotional intimacy with each other? If that is sin, with whom is it acceptable for homosexual persons to share activities of life and emotional intimacy — or are they to live a life void of such companionship? There are no easy answers, but the question “What is the sin of homosexuality?” is worthy of exploration.

 

WWJD

Finally, there is the absence of any comment whatsoever about homosexuality in the words attributed to Jesus (nor anywhere in the four Gospels). It is interesting that most of the church has agreed in recent decades that the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels regarding remarriage after divorce need to be reinterpreted to allow for the grace and love that Jesus taught and exemplified to be applied to that painful dilemma. But many are insisting that teachings about homosexuality that are not attributed to Jesus must be taken literally with no reinterpretation.

For a few decades many Christians in the United States have been enthusiastic about asking, “What would Jesus do?” in any number of situations involving ethical decision-making. However, those same WWJD Christians have been strangely silent about using the WWJD formula in the homosexual dilemma. How do we apply WWJD where Jesus is silent?

Perhaps we need to review Jesus’ love for and advocacy for any number of outcast and downcast sinners and review Jesus’ criticism of the prevailing religious establishment of his own day and time regarding several issues. Perhaps we need to ask, “What would Jesus do about consensual relationships, including sexual activity, between two same-sex persons who are committed to God, committed to each other and committed to their relationship together?”

Griffeth is a retired member of the South Carolina Conference of the UMC.

 

7 Comments

  • Wonder why God didn’t just give Adam a male companion instead of a female, or I guess he could have started with two females, but he didn’t, he started with a male and a female so that must have been the way he intended it to be. Then you say Jesus is silent on the issue, but I think somewhere in Bible He says if my people will turn from there wicked ways then they will not be spending eternity in a place called HELL ! I wish some of you people had been around when the Lord was starting out so He wouldn’t have made so many mistakes.

    • To Virginia, Philip and Buck: I have just in the past several days become aware of your comments on the second of my three articles in the Advocate in September – October – November. I apologize for the delay in my response, and seek to respond to all of you in what follows.

      Virginia, you suggest that my opinions are based on my interpretation of the Bible. You are absolutely correct! Every person’s reading of the Bible is based upon his/her interpretation of the Bible. That is an unavoidable result of our individualism. In fact, all translations of the Bible are based upon the translators’ interpretation of the Bible. (I’ll give an example of that at the end of my response.) I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God; however, it has come to us through the efforts of the human writers and translators who have done their best make the word of God to be accessible to us. I do not believe that all interpretations are equal; some are better informed by study than others. I sometimes think that persons’ interpretations of scripture fall on a spectrum: on one end of the spectrum are those who spend much time and effort in study of the Bible itself and of the best scholarly resources available, in order to form their interpretations of what the Bible says and why; on the other end of the spectrum are those who have believed what someone (a parent or grandparent or Sunday School teacher, etc.) always said that the Bible means and then apply that interpretation into the words on the page when they read the Bible. Few persons are on either far end of the spectrum. I would not dare to suggest where you are on that spectrum; that is your right and privilege. In my case, I have spent more than 50 years as a serious Bible student and teacher and have sought to have my entire working theology grounded in Biblical theology.
      That does not mean that my interpretation is absolutely correct; it means that it is my best interpretation based on my diligent study. I have friends who are similarly trained and studious who disagree with me on the homosexuality issue. We seek to listen to each other and to honor the honest interpretations of each while “agreeing to disagree.” On the other hand, I am aware of a number of people who operate out of a “lust for certitude,” insisting that their interpretations are the only correct ones and that those who disagree are utterly wrong and subject to God’s eternal punishment. Frankly, I believe that such a “lust for certitude” is a sin, in which folks dare to speak with authority (and/or judgment) on behalf of God, rather than bringing their own best interpretations to God in humility and praying for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to fine tune (or correct) their best interpretations.

      Philip, I like your use of the creation story in Genesis 2:4b-25. Clearly the story assumes the heterosexuality of the man and the woman and it has been widely interpreted that that is God’s plan for all humankind. However, it gives no accounting for the presence of homosexuality in the world. I am aware that the frequent explanation for homosexuality is that it is one of the consequences of the fall (which, itself, originated from bad choices/decisions). I am also aware that there are many who choose to believe that homosexuality is a result of personal choice that can be repented of and changed. As I sought to make clear in my third article, I believe that, in those who are homosexual, their homosexuality is hard wired into their creation and is not changeable by any means known to us. And, if there have been any miraculous cures for homosexuality directly from God, I have no knowledge of them.
      I call your attention to Genesis 2:18 where God sees that there is no suitable companion for the man/human and decides to create a proper companion. (The phrase “perfect for him” is difficult to translate from the original Hebrew, but it apparently means “like himself” or “corresponding to him.” And latter verses of the story show that the solution includes “male and female.” However, 2:18 clearly shows that God desires that humans have companions and, in fact, that humans are created for companionship. If we accept that homosexual persons do not choose homosexuality but are created homosexual (I know that many do not believe that.), then what kind of companionship is acceptable to God for those who are created homosexual? I have sought to address that issue in the third article also. By the way, I do not think that God “made mistakes” in the creation; I simply do not believe that we have access to all the thinking/decisions/actions of God; however, I am eternally grateful that God loves us all and is offering a saving relationship with us all.

      Buck, the story of the Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) is rich with the questionable sexual history of the woman; the story doesn’t tell us whether the “five husbands” had all sequentially died and that she was now living with yet another man to whom she was not married. (By the way, women rarely had the right to divorce a husband in that culture; if she was divorced from any of the five husbands, it was his decision.) We know that women of the day generally had no inheritance rights if their husbands died; sometimes they were faced with a choice of starvation or prostitution. But the greater story there is that she, a Samaritan, in the encounter becomes a believer in Jesus and then witnesses to her faith with the people of the Samaritan village. That was unheard of in a day in which Samaritans and Jews each thought that it had the true religion and that the other had the wrong religion and would be punished by God for following it. In the John 8:1-11 story of the woman caught in adultery (It is always interesting to me that the scribes and Pharisees did not bring the man who was caught with her to try to have him stoned as well.), Jesus clearly does forgive her and says, “Go and don’t sin anymore.” And presumably she did! If we assume that homosexuality is a choice, that “go and sin no more” argument would clearly apply. If we assume that homosexuality is hard wired, we have to struggle, as I sought to do in the articles, with the question of “what is the sin in homosexuality?”

      Interpretation in translation (as promised earlier): Because of the nature of trying to put the words of one language into another language, interpretation inevitable shows up in every translation of the Bible. One well known example (There are many more.) is the use of “Red Sea” in Exodus 13 and 15 in most English translations. The original Hebrew words (Yam Suf) are best translated as “Reed Sea” or “Sea of Reeds.” That refers to a section of northeast Egypt through which the Suez Canal connected the Gulf of Suez to the eastern Mediterranean shortly after our American Civil War. It is a swampy, reedy chain of shallow fresh water lakes. In Biblical days it severed as a kind of “wall” separating Egypt from Palestine. The Reed Sea was along the most direct route from the area in which the Jews in Egypt were housed to the “promised land” to which they sought to escape in the exodus. Several decades before the birth of Jesus, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) was done. That translation is the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX). It was widely used at the time of the earliest church and almost all of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are from the LXX rather than the original Hebrew. For reasons now lost to history, the LXX translators used their interpretation to translate Yam Suf as “Red Sea.” In the early 1600’s the team of scholars selected to produce the King James Version translation was made up of England’s top Hebrew and Greek scholars, because they were commissioned to produce a translation that was based upon the original languages. Prior to this most English translations had been based on Jerome’s Latin translation (the Vulgate). The KJV scholars, who surely knew better, decided to continue of the use of Red Sea, rather than to use the original Reed Sea. And we have been stuck with Red Sea until very recently. The NIV and NRSV use Red Sea with a footnote that says “or Sea of Reeds;” CEB uses Reed Sea with a footnote that says “or Red Sea.” Many contemporary scholars suggest that, aided by God, the Jews (on foot) were able to negotiate through/across Yam Suf, but that the Egyptians loaded with armor and equipment and/or in iron wheeled chariots simply bogged down in the swampy, reedy lakes and may have drowned. Others insist that Moses led the people a few hundred miles in the wrong direction and crossed either the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aqaba or the Gulf of Suez all of which are salt water and have no reeds. A few years ago I was teaching a class of older adults and shared the interpretation of the “Reed Sea” crossing; when I finished one gentleman said, “That is not true; I have seen the movie!” Apparently Cecil B. DeMille was his favorite Bible scholar.

  • I agree with Philip,when Jesus told the woman at the well to go and sin no more she was with more than one man.That meant that she was forgiven and she did not sin anymore.

    • To Virginia, Philip and Buck: I have just in the past several days become aware of your comments on the second of my three articles in the Advocate in September – October – November. I apologize for the delay in my response, and seek to respond to all of you in what follows.

      Virginia, you suggest that my opinions are based on my interpretation of the Bible. You are absolutely correct! Every person’s reading of the Bible is based upon his/her interpretation of the Bible. That is an unavoidable result of our individualism. In fact, all translations of the Bible are based upon the translators’ interpretation of the Bible. (I’ll give an example of that at the end of my response.) I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God; however, it has come to us through the efforts of the human writers and translators who have done their best make the word of God to be accessible to us. I do not believe that all interpretations are equal; some are better informed by study than others. I sometimes think that persons’ interpretations of scripture fall on a spectrum: on one end of the spectrum are those who spend much time and effort in study of the Bible itself and of the best scholarly resources available, in order to form their interpretations of what the Bible says and why; on the other end of the spectrum are those who have believed what someone (a parent or grandparent or Sunday School teacher, etc.) always said that the Bible means and then apply that interpretation into the words on the page when they read the Bible. Few persons are on either far end of the spectrum. I would not dare to suggest where you are on that spectrum; that is your right and privilege. In my case, I have spent more than 50 years as a serious Bible student and teacher and have sought to have my entire working theology grounded in Biblical theology.
      That does not mean that my interpretation is absolutely correct; it means that it is my best interpretation based on my diligent study. I have friends who are similarly trained and studious who disagree with me on the homosexuality issue. We seek to listen to each other and to honor the honest interpretations of each while “agreeing to disagree.” On the other hand, I am aware of a number of people who operate out of a “lust for certitude,” insisting that their interpretations are the only correct ones and that those who disagree are utterly wrong and subject to God’s eternal punishment. Frankly, I believe that such a “lust for certitude” is a sin, in which folks dare to speak with authority (and/or judgment) on behalf of God, rather than bringing their own best interpretations to God in humility and praying for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to fine tune (or correct) their best interpretations.

      Philip, I like your use of the creation story in Genesis 2:4b-25. Clearly the story assumes the heterosexuality of the man and the woman and it has been widely interpreted that that is God’s plan for all humankind. However, it gives no accounting for the presence of homosexuality in the world. I am aware that the frequent explanation for homosexuality is that it is one of the consequences of the fall (which, itself, originated from bad choices/decisions). I am also aware that there are many who choose to believe that homosexuality is a result of personal choice that can be repented of and changed. As I sought to make clear in my third article, I believe that, in those who are homosexual, their homosexuality is hard wired into their creation and is not changeable by any means known to us. And, if there have been any miraculous cures for homosexuality directly from God, I have no knowledge of them.
      I call your attention to Genesis 2:18 where God sees that there is no suitable companion for the man/human and decides to create a proper companion. (The phrase “perfect for him” is difficult to translate from the original Hebrew, but it apparently means “like himself” or “corresponding to him.” And latter verses of the story show that the solution includes “male and female.” However, 2:18 clearly shows that God desires that humans have companions and, in fact, that humans are created for companionship. If we accept that homosexual persons do not choose homosexuality but are created homosexual (I know that many do not believe that.), then what kind of companionship is acceptable to God for those who are created homosexual? I have sought to address that issue in the third article also. By the way, I do not think that God “made mistakes” in the creation; I simply do not believe that we have access to all the thinking/decisions/actions of God; however, I am eternally grateful that God loves us all and is offering a saving relationship with us all.

      Buck, the story of the Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) is rich with the questionable sexual history of the woman; the story doesn’t tell us whether the “five husbands” had all sequentially died and that she was now living with yet another man to whom she was not married. (By the way, women rarely had the right to divorce a husband in that culture; if she was divorced from any of the five husbands, it was his decision.) We know that women of the day generally had no inheritance rights if their husbands died; sometimes they were faced with a choice of starvation or prostitution. But the greater story there is that she, a Samaritan, in the encounter becomes a believer in Jesus and then witnesses to her faith with the people of the Samaritan village. That was unheard of in a day in which Samaritans and Jews each thought that it had the true religion and that the other had the wrong religion and would be punished by God for following it. In the John 8:1-11 story of the woman caught in adultery (It is always interesting to me that the scribes and Pharisees did not bring the man who was caught with her to try to have him stoned as well.), Jesus clearly does forgive her and says, “Go and don’t sin anymore.” And presumably she did! If we assume that homosexuality is a choice, that “go and sin no more” argument would clearly apply. If we assume that homosexuality is hard wired, we have to struggle, as I sought to do in the articles, with the question of “what is the sin in homosexuality?”

      Interpretation in translation (as promised earlier): Because of the nature of trying to put the words of one language into another language, interpretation inevitable shows up in every translation of the Bible. One well known example (There are many more.) is the use of “Red Sea” in Exodus 13 and 15 in most English translations. The original Hebrew words (Yam Suf) are best translated as “Reed Sea” or “Sea of Reeds.” That refers to a section of northeast Egypt through which the Suez Canal connected the Gulf of Suez to the eastern Mediterranean shortly after our American Civil War. It is a swampy, reedy chain of shallow fresh water lakes. In Biblical days it severed as a kind of “wall” separating Egypt from Palestine. The Reed Sea was along the most direct route from the area in which the Jews in Egypt were housed to the “promised land” to which they sought to escape in the exodus. Several decades before the birth of Jesus, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) was done. That translation is the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX). It was widely used at the time of the earliest church and almost all of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are from the LXX rather than the original Hebrew. For reasons now lost to history, the LXX translators used their interpretation to translate Yam Suf as “Red Sea.” In the early 1600’s the team of scholars selected to produce the King James Version translation was made up of England’s top Hebrew and Greek scholars, because they were commissioned to produce a translation that was based upon the original languages. Prior to this most English translations had been based on Jerome’s Latin translation (the Vulgate). The KJV scholars, who surely knew better, decided to continue of the use of Red Sea, rather than to use the original Reed Sea. And we have been stuck with Red Sea until very recently. The NIV and NRSV use Red Sea with a footnote that says “or Sea of Reeds;” CEB uses Reed Sea with a footnote that says “or Red Sea.” Many contemporary scholars suggest that, aided by God, the Jews (on foot) were able to negotiate through/across Yam Suf, but that the Egyptians loaded with armor and equipment and/or in iron wheeled chariots simply bogged down in the swampy, reedy lakes and may have drowned. Others insist that Moses led the people a few hundred miles in the wrong direction and crossed either the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aqaba or the Gulf of Suez all of which are salt water and have no reeds. A few years ago I was teaching a class of older adults and shared the interpretation of the “Reed Sea” crossing; when I finished one gentleman said, “That is not true; I have seen the movie!” Apparently Cecil B. DeMille was his favorite Bible scholar.

  • Either we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, or we don’t, thereby leaving it open to interpretation. Mr. Griffith apparently likes to interpret the Bible to suit himself and the politically correct. I personally take God at his word. All of us are sinners in one fashion or another, but to accept what has been stated as a sin and say, oh, it’s ok now, is not up to us. Lots of people have lots of problems that stand between them and God: alcoholism, drugs, self serving, adultery, homosexuality for whatever reason. Everyone should have themselves in church in the pews, but to say that their behavior is acceptable and invite them to positions of authority without asking for forgiveness and changing their behavior, is wrong. The Bible doesn’t directly mention alcohol or drug abuse, but I doubt this behavior would be acceptable in a minister. I’m not here to judge homosexuality, but if we start explaining away the Bible, then we’ll just have one big social club where anything and everything is ok. I don’t think God feels that way. Also, there is special mention and punishment in the new testament about teachers leading the congregation astray and Satan sending people to attack the church to mislead members. Let’s be sure that isn’t what is happening here.

  • […] exploration in light of the pending UMC Commission on Human Sexuality and the fear of a UMC split. Part 2 (October Advocate) discusses specific Scripture as related to homosexuality. Part 3, here, discusses homosexuality […]

  • To Virginia, Philip and Buck: I have just in the past several days become aware of your comments on the second of my three articles in the Advocate in September – October – November. I apologize for the delay in my response, and seek to respond to all of you in what follows.

    Virginia, you suggest that my opinions are based on my interpretation of the Bible. You are absolutely correct! Every person’s reading of the Bible is based upon his/her interpretation of the Bible. That is an unavoidable result of our individualism. In fact, all translations of the Bible are based upon the translators’ interpretation of the Bible. (I’ll give an example of that at the end of my response.) I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God; however, it has come to us through the efforts of the human writers and translators who have done their best make the word of God to be accessible to us. I do not believe that all interpretations are equal; some are better informed by study than others. I sometimes think that persons’ interpretations of scripture fall on a spectrum: on one end of the spectrum are those who spend much time and effort in study of the Bible itself and of the best scholarly resources available, in order to form their interpretations of what the Bible says and why; on the other end of the spectrum are those who have believed what someone (a parent or grandparent or Sunday School teacher, etc.) always said that the Bible means and then apply that interpretation into the words on the page when they read the Bible. Few persons are on either far end of the spectrum. I would not dare to suggest where you are on that spectrum; that is your right and privilege. In my case, I have spent more than 50 years as a serious Bible student and teacher and have sought to have my entire working theology grounded in Biblical theology.
    That does not mean that my interpretation is absolutely correct; it means that it is my best interpretation based on my diligent study. I have friends who are similarly trained and studious who disagree with me on the homosexuality issue. We seek to listen to each other and to honor the honest interpretations of each while “agreeing to disagree.” On the other hand, I am aware of a number of people who operate out of a “lust for certitude,” insisting that their interpretations are the only correct ones and that those who disagree are utterly wrong and subject to God’s eternal punishment. Frankly, I believe that such a “lust for certitude” is a sin, in which folks dare to speak with authority (and/or judgment) on behalf of God, rather than bringing their own best interpretations to God in humility and praying for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to fine tune (or correct) their best interpretations.

    Philip, I like your use of the creation story in Genesis 2:4b-25. Clearly the story assumes the heterosexuality of the man and the woman and it has been widely interpreted that that is God’s plan for all humankind. However, it gives no accounting for the presence of homosexuality in the world. I am aware that the frequent explanation for homosexuality is that it is one of the consequences of the fall (which, itself, originated from bad choices/decisions). I am also aware that there are many who choose to believe that homosexuality is a result of personal choice that can be repented of and changed. As I sought to make clear in my third article, I believe that, in those who are homosexual, their homosexuality is hard wired into their creation and is not changeable by any means known to us. And, if there have been any miraculous cures for homosexuality directly from God, I have no knowledge of them.
    I call your attention to Genesis 2:18 where God sees that there is no suitable companion for the man/human and decides to create a proper companion. (The phrase “perfect for him” is difficult to translate from the original Hebrew, but it apparently means “like himself” or “corresponding to him.” And latter verses of the story show that the solution includes “male and female.” However, 2:18 clearly shows that God desires that humans have companions and, in fact, that humans are created for companionship. If we accept that homosexual persons do not choose homosexuality but are created homosexual (I know that many do not believe that.), then what kind of companionship is acceptable to God for those who are created homosexual? I have sought to address that issue in the third article also. By the way, I do not think that God “made mistakes” in the creation; I simply do not believe that we have access to all the thinking/decisions/actions of God; however, I am eternally grateful that God loves us all and is offering a saving relationship with us all.

    Buck, the story of the Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) is rich with the questionable sexual history of the woman; the story doesn’t tell us whether the “five husbands” had all sequentially died and that she was now living with yet another man to whom she was not married. (By the way, women rarely had the right to divorce a husband in that culture; if she was divorced from any of the five husbands, it was his decision.) We know that women of the day generally had no inheritance rights if their husbands died; sometimes they were faced with a choice of starvation or prostitution. But the greater story there is that she, a Samaritan, in the encounter becomes a believer in Jesus and then witnesses to her faith with the people of the Samaritan village. That was unheard of in a day in which Samaritans and Jews each thought that it had the true religion and that the other had the wrong religion and would be punished by God for following it. In the John 8:1-11 story of the woman caught in adultery (It is always interesting to me that the scribes and Pharisees did not bring the man who was caught with her to try to have him stoned as well.), Jesus clearly does forgive her and says, “Go and don’t sin anymore.” And presumably she did! If we assume that homosexuality is a choice, that “go and sin no more” argument would clearly apply. If we assume that homosexuality is hard wired, we have to struggle, as I sought to do in the articles, with the question of “what is the sin in homosexuality?”

    Interpretation in translation (as promised earlier): Because of the nature of trying to put the words of one language into another language, interpretation inevitable shows up in every translation of the Bible. One well known example (There are many more.) is the use of “Red Sea” in Exodus 13 and 15 in most English translations. The original Hebrew words (Yam Suf) are best translated as “Reed Sea” or “Sea of Reeds.” That refers to a section of northeast Egypt through which the Suez Canal connected the Gulf of Suez to the eastern Mediterranean shortly after our American Civil War. It is a swampy, reedy chain of shallow fresh water lakes. In Biblical days it severed as a kind of “wall” separating Egypt from Palestine. The Reed Sea was along the most direct route from the area in which the Jews in Egypt were housed to the “promised land” to which they sought to escape in the exodus. Several decades before the birth of Jesus, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) was done. That translation is the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX). It was widely used at the time of the earliest church and almost all of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are from the LXX rather than the original Hebrew. For reasons now lost to history, the LXX translators used their interpretation to translate Yam Suf as “Red Sea.” In the early 1600’s the team of scholars selected to produce the King James Version translation was made up of England’s top Hebrew and Greek scholars, because they were commissioned to produce a translation that was based upon the original languages. Prior to this most English translations had been based on Jerome’s Latin translation (the Vulgate). The KJV scholars, who surely knew better, decided to continue of the use of Red Sea, rather than to use the original Reed Sea. And we have been stuck with Red Sea until very recently. The NIV and NRSV use Red Sea with a footnote that says “or Sea of Reeds;” CEB uses Reed Sea with a footnote that says “or Red Sea.” Many contemporary scholars suggest that, aided by God, the Jews (on foot) were able to negotiate through/across Yam Suf, but that the Egyptians loaded with armor and equipment and/or in iron wheeled chariots simply bogged down in the swampy, reedy lakes and may have drowned. Others insist that Moses led the people a few hundred miles in the wrong direction and crossed either the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aqaba or the Gulf of Suez all of which are salt water and have no reeds. A few years ago I was teaching a class of older adults and shared the interpretation of the “Reed Sea” crossing; when I finished one gentleman said, “That is not true; I have seen the movie!” Apparently Cecil B. DeMille was his favorite Bible scholar.

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