18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Homosexuality and the New Testament
Homosexuality can be defined as an attraction between any two people of same gender. In the newtestament, homosexuality is discussed in the book of Romans, which biblical scholars agree to have been composed by apostle Paul. The text for homosexuality is found in Romans 1 18:32 and is discussed along with paganism. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Pagan is a person who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material good.” Homosexuality and paganism has been taken side by side and portrayed as “unnatural act” by Paul in the Letters to the Romans. In the recent years, homosexuality has been in topic of discussion and whether or not homosexuality is considered wrong or sin by the new testament has been a controversy. In this essay, depth on the text regarding the background, interpretations along with the details on the questions such as: What was Paul thinking? What was happening during that time in the Roman empire? Why dies Paul condemn homosexuality? Why does he associate same sex relationship with pagan worship will be discussed in the essay.
During the first century, around 57-58 A.D, Rome was ruled by Nero. At that time, Rome was at peak of power and controlled all the land around the Mediterranean sea. It was also the trade center of the world. It was an influenticial city with people all around the world for trade and to generate income. The economic status of Rome was very good at that time. There were emperors, merchants and people of high class who enjoyed the Roman life a lot more compared to the people of lower economic status and slaves. The social class of Rome consisted of:
Patricians: They were the rulers. They were rich and had access to all the entertainment and luxury available at Rome during that time. The makers of the law. They were the business men. Government officials and people of power.
Plebians: They were the common citizens. They had a decent lifestyle with enough income to support the family. They were small business men and ordinary people.
Slaves: The slaves were the lowerclass people. They were not the citizens and were not given any rights or freedom. They worked for the patricians and the plebeians. They were mostly the soldiers captured during wars.
As people from all over the world were found in Rome, the Religion in Rome was very diverse. Sexuality and gender was also a topic of acceptance. During that time, when Paul wrote Roman 1-18-27, homosexuality was not considered anything different than heterosexuality. The roman way of life was a lot different than today. According to Sprinkle (2013) in his article, Homosexuality in Ancient Rome and why it matters he states that, “First century Romans didn’t think in terms of sexuality but in terms of gender. There was a bit of cross over when it came to which gender you had sexual relationship with; what mattered most was whether you played the active or passive role in the intercourse.” Same sex intercourse were not a taboo and men having intercourse with other men or slaves was not considered out of the ordinary.
In the Romans 1: 18-37, Paul focuses on the actions that are “unnatural” or that is against god. The text can be interpreted in many ways. Paul associates homosexuality and paganism side to side as unnatural acts; acts that puts you away from god. According to koukl (2003), “ This text is a crystal clear condemnation of homosexuality by the Apostle Paul in the middle of his most brilliant discourse on general revelation. Paul is not speaking to a localized aberration of pedophilia or temple prostitution that’s part of life in the capital of Greco-Roman culture. He is talking about a universal condition of man.”Regarding the same-sex behavior itself, here are the specific words Paul uses: a lust of the heart, an impurity that is dishonoring to the body (v. 24); an indecent act and an error (v. 27); a degrading passion that’s unnatural (v. 29); not proper and the product of a depraved mind (v. 28).There’s only one way the clear sense of this passage can be missed: if someone is in total revolt against God, which is precisely Paul’s point.
According to the apostle, homosexual behavior is evidence of active, persistent rebellion against one’s Creator. Verse 32 shows it’s rooted in direct, willful, aggressive sedition against God—true of all so-called Christians who are defending their own homosexuality. God’s response is explicit: “They are without excuse” (v. 20).” Here it is interpreted how Paul says that homosexuality is a sin as it is not normal but to the homosexual people it is not a choice but how they are. When a homosexual person reject his natural tendencies and puts himself through a heterosexual intercourse, it can be considered un natural. The text is not clear about how Paul refers to it being unnatural.
As quoted in Joseph Nicolosi & Linda Ames Nicolosi, “ Homosexuality is not biologically determined. Neither is it chosen by homosexuals, strictly speaking (i.e., the desire is not chosen, though the behavior is). Instead, it seems that developmental factors during formative stages of a person’s life account for the idiosyncrasies of one’s sexual tastes.” It can be argued that when a person feels a desire towards same sex, it is not a choice. So, when a person feels it, it is because of god’s will for the person to feel so, turning away from god’s will would be a sin. Pauls condemnation to violate their sexual orientation for a homosexual to act heterosexually, would be going against god’s design.
Another reason why Paul is against homosexuality, not considering god’s design could be because as (brooten, love between women, 216, 302, 303). puts it, “paul condemns sexual relations between women as ‘unnatural’ because he shares the widely held cultural view that women are passive by nature and therefore should remain passive in sexual relations” . This adds to show that Paul wasn’t against erotic same sex act but men acting passive during intercourse, which gives a point about misogyny but nothing about homosexuality being a sin. Gay sex shows to take away masculine power from a man, which affects Paul.
Another way this can be viewed is as interpreted by Brownson, who concluded that, ‘whenever same-sex eroticism IS viewed negatively, particularly in sources contemporaneous with Paul, it is regarded as a particular manifestation of self-centered lust, one that is not content with women alone but is driven to ever-more exotic and unnatural forms of stimulation in the pursuit of pleasure. It represents the pinnacle of wanton self-indulgence at the expense of others.” Which adds a new light to the topic about how Paul could have viewed homosexuality as pervertd in nature as he thinks it is due to lust, a man cannot fulfill his satisfaction with just a woman and so goes on to a man. Sprinkler (January2015, 500) adds to the argument that, “This argument captures an important perspective in Paul’s world; no one can deny with any historical credibility that homosexual behavior was often believed to result from excessive lust and uncontrollable sexual desire. They are wrong, however, in leaving out other alternative perspectives that do not fit foe excessive-lust model.” This may be that maybe Paul condemns lust, and perverted nature of men, rather than the homosexual act in itself, as man lying with a man, could be a desire.
Another part of the coin is that homosexuality can be considered “unnatural” the genitilia of a man is matched to that of a woman. Koukl ( June 2002) claims that, “As to what is “natural” for homosexuals, the testimony of nature is clear: Homosexuals have male sex organs designed by nature to fit the sex organs of females, not other males. If homosexuals have desires for men rather than women, it’s clear that, however they developed those desires, it is contrary to their natural, physical provision.” From this we can take to the argument that even though the same sex desire may itself not be unnatural, the course of action, the intercourse in itself, which is a choice can be looked as un natural, when looked through the eye’s of Paul. Even to this day, the fact that one person is not born gay, and so it cannot be stated as an natural thing stands.
According to Paul,when pagans moved away from the true god, worshipping materials and idols, god punished them, the Gentiles, by giving them homosexual desire. The desire they cannot control over but this desire is also a sin. And the action taken to fulfill the desire leads the pagans away from god and makes them more sinner. From sin as sex or sex as sin? rom 1:18-32 as first century theological argument by James punt, we find out that, “As mentioned above, homoerotic acts are described as the consequences of the Gentiles’ error for not acknowledging God: God has given them over to impurity, dishonorable passions and a base mind. To be clear, and without denying Paul’s disapproval of them, homoerotic acts are not in Rom 1 described as sin, but as error.
Paul further argues that not only are homoerotic activities themselves justified punishment for not acknowledging God, but also that those engaged in homoerotic activities have already borne the further consequences of their homoerotic acts in themselves (1:27). From this discussion, it follows that it cannot be claimed on the basis of Rom 1 that Paul constructed either an aetiology of sin or evil, or a theology of homosexuality, but that his position on homoeroticism’s involvement in human disloyalty towards God rather should be understood within it’s proper first-century socio-cultural context.”
I think that homosexuality is not a choice as when you feel a desire, you cannot control it. It is not a choice. When a person is not given a choice, they act how they feel, which should be accepted in all countries and communities. As mentioned by Paul, the unnatural desire is god’s way of punishing the Gentiles for not believing the true god. The desire is the will of god. The homosexual being involved in homosexual act makes them a sinner but also, a homosexual person being involved in heterosexual act to fit in the society or any other motive would result in the person not accepting their naural self and make them a sinner. The text is confusing as homosexuals are portrayed as sinner even whey they do as they desire or not. It is a lose-lose situation.
I think Paul isn’t necessarily against homosexuality as during the first century, man lying with a man, and a woman with a woman was common. For, Paul to come to a place and see a common thing and lable it as a sin sounds doubtful, but the main reason could be as Paul believed that men were superior to that of women, so when a guy acts a little feminine due to his homosexuality, Paul doesn’t like it as he sees it as ripping off of the title and prestige of a man. Another confusing thing I came to was that, some interpretation view that Paul was against Lust than homosexuality.
As mentioned above, by Brownsn ‘whenever same-sex eroticism IS viewed negatively, particularly in sources contemporaneous with Paul, it is regarded as a particular manifestation of self-centered lust, one that is not content with women alone but is driven to ever-more exotic and unnatural forms of stimulation in the pursuit of pleasure. It represents the pinnacle of wanton self-indulgence at the expense of others.” , but if lying with a man and a woman is sign of lust and not a man lying with a man or woman with woman, it goes to show lust is considered a sin rather than homosexuality, which could be very controversial and attacking towards the bisexual community- people whose sexuality preference is both male and female.
If homosexual act is can be justifies as natural due to desire, bisexuality should be done so too. I as a modern reader also feel that, Paul portrays the Roman society then was a patriarchal society and misogynistic society, men being as submissive as women or submissive to women is a sin, which in today’s day and age could not be looked as right. Like mentioned by Davies, “A precarious position emerges when formulating Christian sexuality or sexual ethics based on what is claimed fo be a literalist reading of Rom 1, which would require a chauvinist approach to human sexuality, complete with sanctioned male prerogative and regulated female submission “(cf. Davies 1995, 315-332), but as female submission and looking down upon female isn’t acceptable in today’s age, the thing that was considered sin is accepted in society.
If homosexuality was considered sin due to male taking a passive role, like a woman the way it was looked back then and now should be different, even if homosexuality was considered a sin back at the time, the new society should be able to bend that rule rather than stick to it, as in modern era, equality is the mantra and if un misogynistic belief isn’t considered a sin, homosexuality shouldn’t be considered a sin either. . A precarious position emerges when formulating Christian sexuality or sexual ethics based on what is claimed fo be a literalist reading of Rom 1, which would require a chauvinist approach to human sexuality, complete with sanctioned male prerogative and regulated female submission (cf. Davies 1995, 315-332). If Paul knew what we know now, about sexuality and human desire, and about the equality between genders, the writing and the interpretation of the sin would be different.
To conclude, the letter to the Romans 1: 18-27 talks about paganism being a sin as it is a way of life, that worships materials and idols rather than true god. It portrays how going against the will of god, and believe in pagan gods is not fulfilling the words of god and is being unnatural, so it is considered a sin. It also associates, Paganism with same sex relationshipsas, desire of same sex is god’s way pf punishing the gentiles and making them feel un natural feeling. It also goes to say that homosexual desire is result of sin-pagan worship but also fulfilling the desire and participating in the same sex intercourse would be a sin. Paul believes that me are higher than women. When a man, acts passive or feminine during intercourse he strips the pride of a man away from him, which in Paul’s eye is a big sin and qualifies as going against the will of god, which is the main reason why homosexuality is condemned by Paul I the letter to the romans.
- Brooten, Bernadette J, and James A Brundage. “Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism.” Journal of Family History, vol. 23, no. 1, 1998, p. 100
- Brownson, James V. Bible, Gender, Sexuality : Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 2013. Accessed Apr. 2018.
- Davies, M. 1995. Hew Testament Ethics and Ours: Homosexuality and Sexuality in Romans 1:26-27. Bibint 3(3): 315-31.
- Greg Koukl, Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality (November, 01, 2003) https://www.str.org/publications/paul-romans-and-homosexuality#_ftnref6
- Joseph Nicolosi and Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2002),54
- Punt, J. “Sin As Sex or Sex As Sin? : Rom 1:18-32 As First Century Ce Theological.” Neotestamentica, vol. 42, no. 1, 2008, pp. 73–92 http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=85656388-3c6b-442f-a7ed-e12487f010c7%40sdc-v-sessmgr03&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=ATLA0001685236&db=rfh
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paganism, Accessed date December,4,2018
- Preston Sprinkler, Homosexuality in Ancient rome & why it matters,(September 23, 2013) http://archives.eternitybiblecollege.com/2013/09/23/homosexuality-in-ancient-rome-and-why-it-matters/ Accessed date December,4,2018
- Preston Sprinkler, Paul and Homosexual behavior: A critical evaluation of the excessive- Lust interpretations of the Romans,(January 1, 2015,pg.500) http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=bbfcd85c-6fdc-4973-8361-d62a8ceac157%40sessionmgr120