(Author’s Note: The following is an assessment of my thoughts regarding an article titled, Homosexuality: One Parishioner’s Perspective (A deconstruction of the context of Bible verses used against LGBT rights). I believe the review of the article is fair according to biblical accuracy, flow of logic, and overall sense of objective truth. My hope is that it will be received with the same sincerity in which I sincerely wrote it.)
A Response to the Article, Homosexuality: One Parishioner’s Perspective (A deconstruction of the context of Bible verses used against LGBT rights):
In the article put forth by Philip H. “Hutch” Hutchens, PhD, Homosexuality: One Parishioner’s Perspective (A deconstruction of the context of Bible verses used against LGBT rights), there are two main points of argument made, with three biblical examples used to support the arguments, and four arbitrary claims of conclusion. These will each be addressed in the order the author wrote them: two arguments, three examples, and four claims of conclusion.
Two Main Points of Argument
First, the overall point of the argument, as stated by the author, is to refute the verses of the Bible which the author claims are often used against LGBT rights by shedding light on the context of those stated verses. But before this direction is taken, he first makes three argumentative claims regarding the word “homosexual,” stating that it “does not appear in the Bible,” was “first used in the English language during the eighteenth century,” and has been replaced, saying, “the more politically correct reference to homosexuals is the acronym LGBT” (he recognizes that Q is also sometimes added but himself refuses to do so, both here and in the subtitle of the article; this probably does not help his argument against discrimination).
The claim that the word “homosexual” does not appear in the Bible is inaccurate, and also seems to be self-refuted by the author’s own claim that the word only first appeared in the English language in the 18th century (so evidently the word does appear in the Bible, but only at a later date?). Since his point is ambiguous, it is left up to the reader to interpret what he means. I am therefore assuming that what he means is that in the original languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, that the word “homosexual” does not appear because it did not appear in the English language until the 18th century. But just because a particular language group has not created a specific word for a specific person, place, thing, or activity, it does not mean that that thing does not exist in actuality. Nor does it mean that just because one language group does not have a word for something, that it does not have an equivalent version for it, whether contained in another specific word or a string of words. This is simple language fundamentals. Therefore, to argue that the English language did not have a word describing gay behavior until the 18th century and thusly must not be in the original languages of the Bible is a straw-man fallacy.
Furthermore, a closer look at the original languages of the Bible will show that, indeed, there are words and phrases of words in those languages to refer specifically to gay sexual behaviors. For example, in Hebrew, a string of words that are used to designate homosexual behavior is, וְאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁכַּ֤ב אֶת־זָכָר֙ מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֔ה (translation: “a man who lies sexually with another man like with a woman”). Here an entire phrase is used to specifically, intentionally explain what is being referred to so that there is no mistake in what is being said. This is the phrase used in both Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.
“‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22 (NASB95)
“‘If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act…” Leviticus 20:13 (NASB95)
Furthermore, it is this phrase which Paul is echoing when he used a similar string of words in the New Testament book of Romans, when he said:
“and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Romans 1:27 (NASB95)
Turning to the New Testament and its Greek vocabulary, the specific word which is used to refer to gay sexual behavior is ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoitēs). The academic Greek-English lexicon, BDAG, gives this as a definition: “a male who engages in sexual activity with a person of his own sex” (BDAG). This word is used several times in the New Testament, always in the same sense. For example, consider 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians:
“realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals (ἀρσενοκοίτης) and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,” 1 Timothy 1:9–10 (NASB95)
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals (ἀρσενοκοίτης)” 1 Corinthians 6:9 (NASB95)
So, in summary of the review of the author’s first argument, while the English word “homosexual” is a relatively new English word, the history of the meaning behind the word is as old as the Bible itself. Furthermore, while the English language did not have the word “homosexual” until the 18th century, it did have the words “sodomy” and “sodomite” before then, which would be equivalents to our more modern terms. Why would someone who has achieved the level of scholarship of a PhD fail to research and reference this easily accessible information?
The second argument the author makes, and more to the point of the purpose of his article, is to deconstruct the idea that the Bible condemns gay behavior, when in actuality of its context, he says it does not. So therefore, the argument he makes is that on the surface there are certain verses which appear to condemn it, but when viewed in their broader context, “it is clear that all negative connotations about these persons (who we now refer to as LGBTs) are always secondary to a more primary message.”
First of all, before we assess the examples used in his argument, an assessment of the logic must be noted. Even if it were true that these passages are merely being used to make a primary point about something else, this does not diminish the negative connotation behind it. That would be like someone using the blueness of the sky to describe what a person’s eyes look like and assuming that now the blueness is no longer blue because it is only being used in a secondary way in order of importance. This would be silly. In fact, just the opposite is true. The blueness of the sky is elevated to an absolutely essential status and remains of primary importance in order to accurately and effectively describe the color of someone’s eyes. Simply because it is being used as a point of reference does not negate or diminish the fact that the sky is still blue. In the same way, if the negative connotation of homosexual behavior is being used to illustrate some other truth, even, as he suggests of a more primary message, it does not remove the original meaning or connotation of homosexual behavior. In fact, I would argue, it actually elevates it. Again, for someone with a PhD, how did he miss this logic?
Three Examples from Scripture
The author uses three examples from the Bible to support his argument that if the broader context of Scripture is seen, it will prove that the Bible does not condemn gay sexual behavior. The first is from Leviticus 18:22, which says:
“‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22 (NASB95)
The author implies the question of, “Why is this verse in the Bible,” with the answer that the full context of Leviticus explains what this verse is intended to mean; once again pointing to the path of contextual foundation in order to gain clarity and the removal of negative connotations. But what is ironic here, is that the author does not do this. He in no way addresses the overall context of Leviticus. Sure, he provides a little bit of historical background (with no references for support, again, strange from a PhD scholar), but he fails to state the literary context of the passage at all; the very thing he is claiming to do. In fact, he completely ignores it! Instead, the points made for the support of his argument here is that the prohibition of gay sex is two-fold because the nation of Israel, first, needed to reproduce in order to survive (this can be labeled the Pro-Creation View which seems to be an underlying bias throughout the article, more on that later), and the second, was because of their hatred for the Canaanites and their pagan rituals. Unfortunately, this is very misleading, because as noted, it in no way addresses the overall literary context of why Leviticus was written and this verse is in the Bible. This is strange because even a casual reading of Leviticus shows what the context of what this book is. For example:
“‘For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.’” Leviticus 11:44 (NASB95)
“‘For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ”” Leviticus 11:45 (NASB95)
““Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Leviticus 19:2 (NASB95)
Over and over again, the contextual theme of Leviticus is stated and restated: “Israel, you shall be holy because the Lord your God is holy.” In fact, it is stated twice within the immediate context of Leviticus 18:22, the verse the author chose as his example:
“‘You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 20:7 (NASB95)
“‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” Leviticus 20:26 (NASB95)
Therefore, within the actual context of Leviticus, this book is a call to holiness with God Himself being the object set forth as an example, and the various commandments stated throughout as the path and test for holiness. If this author were serious about objectively considering the nuts and bolts of the context in order to reach clear conclusions, why did he skip this obvious evidence of the immediate context of Leviticus, not to mention the overall context or the entire book? Choosing some obscure note of historical background without referencing any academic scholarship for support seems strange.
But he goes on to provide New Testament examples in support of his argument, the first from Romans 1:26-27. The argument made from these passages is that what Paul means in his condemnation is that of the passionate pursuit of any fleshly act which would overshadow the passionate pursuit of God; Paul is only using homosexual lifestyles as an illustration for his argument. But remember my point about the blueness of the sky above? It is the same false foundation being used again. By using gay sex as an illustration to condemn a greater act, that of idolatry (whereby something other than God is being worshipped as primary), it does not necessarily negate the condemnation of gay sex. If anything, it heightens the level of its condemnation by adding another reason why it is condemned; namely, idolatry.
But since this is quickly glossed over in order to make another point (within the exact same paragraph of thought I might add, adding another breach of academic writing to the growing list), we will move on as well.
The final sub point which somehow concluded the last point but yet introduced the third and final example, comes from Matthew 19:12, and the words of Jesus Himself. Here, it seems the true bias and objective of the author shines in its greatest light, which by now can obviously be seen as not the pursuit of accurate biblical context. Using the illustration from Scripture referring to eunuchs, the point is made that gay sex is often condemned in the Bible merely because pro-creation was necessary. But since humanity goes through different seasons of population growth; sometimes growing incredibly fast when conditions are right, other times more slowly, especially in the face of war, famine, and disease, gay behavior isn’t always to be condemned. Instead it is only condemned based on what the needs of given society are at a given time. The reason this belies the author’s underlying bias of the entire article is because this is the third time he has hinted at its connection with human pro-creation. The first time was in the supposed historical background of Israel which was struggling for survival as a people group in Leviticus 18:22 (the truth of the matter is that the nation had grown to several million men, women, and children during their captivity in Egypt and their consequent wanderings in the Wilderness of Sinai (Barry, et al, 2016), but hey, without any academic resources, who’s to be the wiser?). The second hint at this underlying bias was in the second example which took a strange turn at the end where it was mentioned that Paul was merely against gay sex because the Lord was returning soon to separate the righteous from the unrighteous, therefore pro-creation through heterosexual relationships wasn’t necessary any longer. So, Jesus is returning, therefore, everybody stop having babies? Then, in this final example from Matthew 19:12, that same theme is picked up on again with the comparison of eunuchs to LGBTs. His logic is that since eunuchs were a minority group (again, no source is given for his PhD-level claim) and were unable to bear children, that Jesus is praising them for their position in life. Therefore, in the same way, he claims that those who identify as LGBT are in the same position of life and in the same category of praise from Jesus. But again, this misses the mark because Jesus is not praising the eunuchs because of the circumstances of their life, but rather, because they have taken the unfortunate circumstances of their life and have chosen to devote themselves wholly, completely to serving and worshipping God. The thing which is being praised is their commitment, not their condition.
But the underlying bias against pro-creation aside, this author’s original goal as stated in the beginning was to deflect anti-gay sentiment from biblical sources by addressing the broader context of said biblical sources. If this were the case, then again, why not consider the literary context of Matthew 19:12? My guess is because he would see that this house of cards crumbles immediately and irrevocably. Those verses are these:
“And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:4–6 (NASB95)
Four Arbitrary Claims of Conclusion
After making his two arguments and providing three passages of Scripture for support, the author then makes his overall conclusion by making four bold, yet unfounded claims.
The first is that “I have read all that the Bible has to say about LGBT lifestyles.” This is an interesting claim since this article would not seem to support that. In fact, I don’t believe this article has even begun to touch the depth of what the Bible has to say in this area. For example, what about that whole situation between Noah and his son, which resulted in a curse? (Genesis 9:22-25) Or what about those men of Sodom who wanted to have relations with the visitors in which Lot condemned their intentions as “wicked”? (Genesis 19:4-7) Or what about the ubiquitous call of the prophets for the people of Israel to turn from their sin, one of which was “men lying with men as like with a woman”? Or what about the appeal by the apostles for the Church to engage in evangelistic pursuits of pleading with those who have gone after strange flesh in order to pluck them like brands from the fire? (Jude) I honestly wonder if the author has truly read “all” the Bible has to say about this subject.
The second claim of conclusion is that sexual preference in the Bible is a secondary issue. Again, this misses the mark of context, which is exactly the angle the author has chosen to make his stand. The overall context of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is that gay behavior, and other issues of sin, are the very things we must see as primary if we are ever to discover God’s best intention for our lives. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Law was given so that sin could be seen as utterly, completely sinful. But not to leave us in condemnation, at the right time, Christ was given as the way of forgiveness and redemption and transformation. This is what true love is, that even when mankind was in complete rebellion against its Creator, our Creator offered to forgive us. Therefore, the issues of sexual preference are absolutely critical (primary) in order for this process of love to take place.
The third claim of conclusion states that “the Bible is not against sexual preference on a moral basis.” Again, the same argument against this claim can be made from the one above. But to go a step further, if sexual behavior doesn’t fall into the category of moral behavior, then where does it fall? Metaphysics? Epistemology? Why would someone with a PhD not tell us?
The fourth and final claim of conclusion the author makes is that “sexual orientation is irrelevant to the Christian message.” For something to be irrelevant, it means that it is disconnected or unrelated to something else. If that were true here, then why does the book of the Christians say so much about sexual behaviors? Contextually speaking, of course.
With all due respect to the author, this article does not help the LGBTQ+ movement in their pursuits. Overall, it is somewhat embarrassing in its scholarship, broken in its logic, shallow in its grasp of the flow of biblical thought, fails to uphold literary integrity, and ineffective in its ability to tie up the loose ends it creates. Most importantly, it fails because it simply does not represent truth.
Chad Cummings (not a PhD, yet)
Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 135). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Barry, J. D., Bomar, D., Brown, D. R., Klippenstein, R., Mangum, D., Sinclair Wolcott, C., … Widder, W. (Eds.). (2016). In The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (2006).