The following notes
are keyed to the note numbers in: Robert A. J. Gagnon, “Does the Bible
Regard Same-Sex Intercourse as Intrinsically Sinful?” in
Christian Sexuality: Normative and Pastoral Principles
(ed. Russell Saltzman; Minneapolis: Kirk House, 2003), 106-155. The essay
uses critically an important essay by Mark Allen Powell entitled “The
Bible and Homosexuality” (pp. 19-40 in Faithful Conversation:
Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality [ed. James M. Childs;
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003] as a springboard for discussing: the
male-female prerequisite in the Genesis creation stories; the rest of the
case for regarding same-sex intercourse as intrinsically sinful; and why
the sexual orientation argument does not diminish the biblical witness
against same-sex intercourse (including a discussion of orientation theory
1. There is a one-sentence mention on p.
21: “Sex normally allows people to participate in the divine act of
creation and so to fulfill the divine call to “be fruitful and multiply”
2. The narrator of Genesis 1 does not
apply the concept of structural compatibility in an unimaginative way.
Sometimes the concept is used to keep different things apart and sometimes
(as in the case of sex pairing) to make complementary difference the basis
3. I make this final point not in
reaction to anything that Powell says but rather as an additional point
directed at what I refer to as the “misogyny argument”; that is, the
contention that the Bible’s opposition to homosexual practice is due
primarily to a desire to maintain a strict hierarchical relationship
between men and women (men on top, women on bottom—physically and
Although there is a lot more
that I could say about Fretheim’s piece, I will confine myself to one
further observation. Fretheim links the Levitical proscriptions of
same-sex intercourse with the stories of Sodom and Gibeah. But rather than
using Lev 18:22 and 20:13 as evidence for interpreting Gen 19 and Judg 19
as indictments of male-male intercourse per se, Fretheim moves in
the opposite direction. Fretheim thinks that the Levitical prohibitions
have in view gang rape of males by “heterosexual” males (pp. 8, 11). The
obvious problem with this interpretation, however, is that it forces one
to interpret Lev 20:13 as requiring a male rape victim to be put to death
along with his raping victimizer. Clearly, all the sex laws in Lev 18 and
20 presume consent on the part of both human participants (hence
the refrain in Lev 20: “their blood upon them”).
5. Obviously I am being a bit facetious
here; but it is to make a point that the obvious often gets overlooked in
the debate about homosexuality. Incidentally, I have debated female
biblical scholars, some of them lesbian, who strenuously deny that men are
significantly different from women as regards sexual expectations. The
obvious is not equally obvious to everyone.
6. Cf. John Gray, Men Are from Mars,
Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and
Getting What You Want in Your Relationships (San Francisco:
7. E. Hatfield and S. Sprecher,
Mirror, Mirror: The Importance of Looks in Everyday Life (Albany, NY:
SUNY Press, 1986); David M. Buss, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies
of Human Mating (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 73. Another study
found—not surprisingly—that women identify as the most common problem
experienced on dates “unwanted pressure from men to engage in sexual
behavior”; for men the most common problem is communication (D. Knox and
K. Wilson, “Dating problems of university students,” College Student
Journal 17 : 225-28). Linda Mealey, who cites the aforementioned
studies also cites the following: “Buss and Schmitt (1993) asked students
how long they would have to know someone before they would consider having
sex with them. The response choices on the questionnaire were: 5 years, 2
years, 1 year, 6 months, 3 months, 1 month, 1 week, 1 day, 1 evening, and
1 hour. . . . [T]he average response by women was about 6 months, whereas
for men it was about 1 week. Women were very unlikely to express interest
after knowing someone for only a week, but a significant number of men
expressed interest in having sex with someone they had known for only an
hour. . . . Buss now jokes that in order to get better accuracy in his
data, his next questionnaire will include a response choice of 1 minute!”
(Sex Differences: Development and Evolutionary Strategies [San
Diego: Academic Press, 2000], 266; citing: D. M. Buss and D. P. Schmitt,
“Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating,”
Psychological Review 100 : 204-32). These are the kinds of
studies that might provoke the satirical response, “What would we do
without experts?” They confirm what most people can adduce for themselves
on the basis of personal experience. Mealey summarizes sex differences in
mating strategies across species. (1) In terms of “availability,” “males
are typically more sexually available than females.” (2) As regards “arousability,”
“males are typically more easily aroused than females.” (3) With respect
to “commitment,” “males are typically more likely to seek multiple sexual
partners than are females” (p. 76).
8. Cf. Donald Symons, The Evolution
of Human Sexuality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).
9. I am using the term structuralist
to describe the view put forward in the previous section; namely, that
proper sexual pairing requires a binary relationship between the sexes—a
relationship based on the structural complementarity of maleness and
femaleness that transcends issues regarding the directedness of human
sexual desire. I am not using the term in the different ways that it is
employed in cultural anthropology, psychology, or linguistics.
10. See Bible and Homosexual
Practice, 64-65 for those who support a rape interpretation and those
who do not; the case for the former is made on pp. 63-71. Incidentally, it
is strange that Powell in the suggestions “for further reading” at the end
of his article cites the pro-homosex scholars Countryman, Furnish, and
Scroggs but makes no mention of the superior pro-homosex books of Nissinen
11. Powell misreads these texts as
having nothing to do with consensual homoerotic behavior.
12. Bible and Homosexual Practice,
63-110; and, for a shorter synthesis, section IV of my essay in
Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).
13. For various theories see Bible
and Homosexual Practice, 112 n. 179.
14. Every extant text from early Judaism
that speaks about homosexual behavior shows unremitting hostility to it.
We also have no record of any Jew engaging in same-sex intercourse in the
entire Second Temple period, or in the two centuries following the
destruction of the second Temple.
15. There are other pieces of evidence
of Jesus’ rejection of homosexual practice, in addition to his appeal to
Gen 1:27 and 2:24, the background of early Judaism, and Jesus’
intensification of sexual ethics generally (closing the law’s loopholes
and intensifying its demands). Cf. Bible and Homosexual Practice,
ch. 3 (“The Witness of Jesus”) and section VI of my essay in
Homosexuality and the Bible.
16. Powell accidentally truncates the
phrase “becoming one flesh” to “becoming one”; cf. n. 37 above.
17. Cf. also Powell, pp. 19, 22, 30, 35.
18. The other dimension, as noted
earlier, is the intra-human character of sexual relationships.
19. Similarly, on p. 26: “while what is
considered unnatural or non-normative is not necessarily regarded
as wrong, the prohibitions here indicate that, in this case, it is
regarded as wrong. In these texts, male-male intercourse is viewed
not simply as something exceptional or atypical, but as ‘abominable.’” For
a full discussion of Lev 18:22 and 20:13, see Bible and Homosexual
Practice, 111-57; for a shorter treatment but with some additional
work on purity laws, see my essay in Homosexuality and the Bible,
20. The Levitical prohibitions do not
mention explicitly female-female intercourse. Nevertheless, Paul’s
coupling of female and male homosexual intercourse in the indictment of
Rom 1:24-27 indicates clearly that Paul regarded female homosexual
intercourse as prohibited by extension—applying the same principle
operating with male-male intercourse.
21. Curiously, the remark, “Paul’s
apparent citation of the prohibitions against same-sex activity . . .
does make them relevant,” appears after his caution about
basing “moral teaching on an unsure interpretation of Scripture.” I do not
understand: How can the church both view the Levitical absolute
prohibitions as relevant and not base its moral teaching on
the text’s view of male-male intercourse as intrinsically sinful?
22. David E. Fredrickson, a New
Testament professor at Luther Seminary, has contended at a recent
pro-homosex gathering of Lutherans: “Conservative interpreters see that
word ‘natural’ and their minds are taken back to Genesis 1, where God made
humans male and female. But the Greek word for natural that Paul is using
doesn’t actually occur in the Septuagint, which is what Paul would have
been familiar with” (reported in: Joel Hoekstra, “Conference urges gay
unions, ordination changes,” The Lutheran [June 2003]: 43; note:
the adjective phusikos, “natural,” does not appear in the
Septuagint; the noun phusis, “nature,” appears only in Old
Testament Apocrypha). Fredrickson’s argument is extremely weak, indeed
desperate: obviously the concept behind a word can be present even when
the specific word does not appear. For example, both Philo and Josephus
state that Lev 18:22 and 20:13 establish male-male intercourse as
“contrary to nature,” even though the Greek word “nature” or “natural”
does not appear in the Septuagint translation of these texts (Philo,
Special Laws 3.37-39; Josephus, Against Apion 2.199-200, 275;
cf. n. 41 above). The echo to Gen 1:26-27 in Rom 1:23-27 is so obvious
that its denial must be attributed to a determined ideological aversion.
See D.5 below for the citation of Gen 2:24 in the context of Paul’s
discussion of prohibited sexual behavior, including the prohibition of
male-male intercourse. For a comprehensive refutation of Fredrickson's
article in the Balch volume, see now "A Comprehensive and Critical Review
Essay of Homosexuality, Science, and the 'Plain Sense' of Scripture,
Part 2," HBT 25 (2003): 206-39 (click
for online pdf copy).
23. So its usage in 1 Thess 4:7; Gal
5:19; 2 Cor 12:21; Col 3:5; Eph 4:19; 5:3.
24. It is standard practice to
transliterate Greek upsilon with an English “y”, except in
diphthongs. However, there is no good reason not to transliterate with
English “u”; it is easier for English speakers and better approximates the
sound of the Greek character.
25. The phrase and comparable
expressions occur in the following early Jewish literature: Philo,
Abraham 135-37; idem, Special Laws 1.325; 3.37-42; idem,
Contemplative Life 59; Josephus, Against Apion 2.199, 273-75;
Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides 190-92; Testament of Naphtali
3:4; 2 Enoch 10:4. For antecedents in Greco-Roman literature, see,
e.g., Plato, Laws 636a; 836c; 838e-839a; 841d-e; Musonius Rufus
12; Plutarch, Dialogue on Love 751d-e; idem, Whether Beasts Are
Rational 990d-f; Pseudo-Lucian, Affairs of the Heart 19-22. The
texts are quoted in Bible and Homosexual Practice, 159-83.
26. For an analysis of the extant uses
of the word arsenokoites and related terms in antiquity, see
Bible and Homosexual Practice, 317-22.
27. The wording of stepmother
prohibitions, “lying with one’s father’s wife,” is too cumbersome to
permit a single compound word to describe those who engage in such
behavior. However, if there were such a
word—“father’s-wife-bedders” (gynaikopatrokoitai)—would Powell want
to argue that it does not carry the absoluteness of the pentateuchal
prohibitions? The discussion in 1 Cor 5 indicates clearly that Paul
retains the exception-less quality of the pentateuchal prohibitions,
irrespective of whether the incestuous man intended the union to be
monogamous and committed.
28. One cannot argue that passive and
particularly feminized male homosexual partners cease to be males. The
Levitical proscriptions oppose homoerotic activity on the grounds that it
involves a man doing sexually with another male what should only be done
with a woman (“as though lying with a woman”). The act is viewed as
heinous precisely because it does violence to the stamp of gender,
attempting to convert the male into a sex that he is not and that God
never intended him to be.
29. Transgendered persons may make such
a claim, though that claim can (and should) be contested. Rare cases of
extreme sexual ambiguity (the intersexed) may pose problems. Then again, a
number of ironclad proscriptions have ambiguous cases around the edges,
including those against pedophilia and incest. Maturity cannot always be
connected to specific age demarcations. And whether to draw the incest
line at first, second, or third cousins is somewhat arbitrary. However,
such ambiguities do not deter the church and society from drawing some
exception-less boundaries. Sex with a prepubescent child or with one’s
parents and siblings is always wrong. No exceptions.
30. The statement could be phrased more
precisely. Technically speaking, the issue is whether Paul would have
counseled a homosexual believer to refrain from same-sex intercourse. Paul
does not require celibacy; however, he does forbid absolutely some types
of sexual relationships.
31. See my nn. 22-24. If Powell’s “or”
really means “or,” then he is claiming that we cannot know what Paul would
have prescribed for Christians who engage in nonexploitative homosexual
behavior, regardless of the intensity of homoerotic desire. If Powell
intended an “and,” then Powell makes the issue of loving commitment a
factor only in conjunction with an exclusive homosexual orientation.
Either way, Powell makes exploitation a significant consideration in
assessing Paul’s views on homosexual practice. Cf. Powell’s remark on p.
35: “The simple demonstration that same-sex couples are able to form
loving, committed relationships is not sufficient.” “Not sufficient”
suggests that commitment is at least a necessary factor for Powell.
He then goes on to say that “the pressing point for the Church” is whether
homosexuals could “find fulfillment of their God-given desires for an
intimate life-partner through heterosexual relationships.”
32. Perhaps Powell would underscore the
fact that he uses the term “unnatural” rather than “wrong” or “sinful”
(cf. p. 28). This distinction would still not rescue Powell’s point. As
noted in “C.” above, the operative word is “objects.” If Paul’s
objections to homosexual acts have nothing to do with consideration of
promiscuity or exploitation, why would a committed homosexual relationship
play any part in satisfying Paul’s objection?
33. The classic defense of male-male
intercourse can be found in the speeches by Phaedrus, Pausanias, and
Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium 178C-193D—a defense which,
incidentally, Philo of Alexandria was well aware of (Contemplative Life
34. Plutarch contended that “union
contrary to nature with males . . . . either unwillingly with force
and plunder or willingly with softness and effeminacy, surrendering
themselves, as Plato says, ‘to be mounted in the custom of four-footed
animals and to be sowed with seed contrary to nature’ [Phaedrus
250E]—this is an entirely ill-favored favor, shameful and contrary to
Aphrodite” (Dialogue on Love 751D-E). For a discussion of these and
other texts, see Bible and Homosexual Practice, 159-83, 347-60. The
argument that the authors of Scripture probably had in view only the
dominant exploitative form of pederasty is the main contention of Robin
Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1983). Not even Bernadette Brooten, a New Testament scholar and
self-identified lesbian, accepts this rationale for Paul’s absolute
proscription (Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female
Homoeroticism [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996], 253 n.
106, 257, 361). John Boswell, another homosexual scholar, also warned
against the danger of exaggerating the differences between ancient and
modern manifestations of homosexuality (Christianity, Social Tolerance,
and Homosexuality [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980],
27-30). I refer to their comments in Bible and Homosexual Practice,
359-60 n. 16.
35. The operative clause here is: “just
as he did believers who were involved in incestuous relationships.” I
suppose that Powell could contend in the case of practicing, self-avowed
homosexuals that there might be circumstances where suspension from
community life—I prefer this description to the term excommunication—might
be postponed, pending time for repentance and thus depending on the
perceived obstinacy of the offender. But the same argument could be made
for Paul’s response to those participating in incestuous behavior. The
point is that whatever Paul would have done for participants in
incest or adultery he would have done for participants in same-sex
intercourse (“just as . . .”). Eventually (and probably sooner
rather than later), serial unrepentant (obstinate, self-avowed) activity
of this sort would have led to ecclesiastical suspension.
36. If one replaced “might” with
“would,” would Powell hold to the rest of the statement?
Particularly “determinative” within
Powell’s overall presentation is his conclusion that the Bible’s stance on
same-sex intercourse is not necessarily absolute—an observation
nowhere “actually written” in Scripture. Paul acknowledges as much when he
says: “Paul seems to say that 1) all instances of homosexuality are
unnatural; and that 2) [only] the instances of homosexuality known to his
Roman readers are [necessarily] both unnatural and wrong”
(p. 28; first emphasis added). To arrive at this conclusion Powell has to
put together various pieces of information and fill in what he perceives
to be obvious—but still only implied—connecting links. If these unwritten
links are not “determinative for the Church’s deliberations,” then neither
is the resulting conclusion. Ultimately, to say anything meaningful about
Scripture for the church’s deliberations one has to acknowledge that there
are some unwritten messages sent by Scripture that are so obviously
implied as to function, for all intents and purposes, as though they were
written. I contend that what Paul “might have thought” about
Christians who were engaging in consensual same-sex intercourse for
whatever reason is really an obviously implied “would have thought”
that can be considered “determinative for the Church’s deliberations” and
so function, for all intents and purposes, as though it were “actually
written” in the canon of Scripture.
38. Compare Powell’s appeal to this
“traditional approach” on p. 24. Another point: Had there not been an
incestuous man in the Corinthian community Paul would have said nothing
explicit in his extant letters about sex between a man and his stepmother.
Yet it would be a monstrous miscarriage of interpretation to have
concluded from silence that obvious but unwritten convictions in the New
Testament about sex between a man and his (step-)mother would have no
determinative bearing on church deliberations today.
39. Of course, the silence of the New
Testament can also lead us to conclusions in the opposite direction (e.g.,
as regards sex with a menstruating woman or levirate marriage).
40. See n. 27 for a discussion of the
meaning of “intrinsically sinful” as used by Powell and understood by
To be sure, there are some
pro-homosex apologists who acknowledge something akin to sexual
orientation in antiquity. Note William R. Schoedel’s comment: “Both
[Bernadette] Brooten and I find problematic the common view that sexual
orientation was not recognized in the ancient world” (Schoedel, “Same-Sex
Eros: Paul and the Greco-Roman Tradition,” in Homosexuality, Science,
and the “Plain Sense” of Scripture [ed. D. Balch; Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2000], 47 n. 5). Schoedel, however, does not consistently apply
the logic of this crucial admission to Paul (cf. my critique in Bible
and Homosexual Practice, 392-95). Occasionally, too, one encounters
proponents of a pro-complementarity view who buy into the notion that
sexual orientation was beyond the conception of Paul. The most prominent
case in point is Richard B. Hays. Hays charged John Boswell with
anachronistically reading back into Rom 1:26-27 the view that Paul
distinguished between natural homosexuals who had desires
exclusively for persons of the same sex on the one hand and unnatural
homosexuals who were really overstimulated heterosexuals on the other
hand. According to Hays, Paul supposed homosexual behavior to be “the
result of insatiable lust seeking novel and more challenging forms of
self-gratification” (“Relations Natural and Unnatural: A Response to John
Boswell’s Exegesis of Romans 1,” Journal of Religious Ethics 14
: 184-215, referring here to pp. 200-201; idem, The Moral Vision
of the New Testament [New York: HarperCollins, 1996], 388-89).
Actually, Boswell argued that Paul was unaware of such a
distinction and that Paul simply assumed that everyone who engaged in
same-sex intercourse was capable of satisfying their desires through
heterosexual intercourse (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and
Homosexuality [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980], 109,
112-13). On this point Hays and Boswell were in agreement. They differed
only in what to do with this knowledge: Boswell intimating that Paul might
have arrived at a different conclusion about the “unnaturalness” of
homosexuality if he had known what we know, Hays contending that it would
have been irrelevant to Paul’s point.
42. Readers should regard this section
as supplementing substantially the discussion in Bible and Homosexual
Practice, 353-54, 384-85, 392-94.
43. Aristophanes underscored that
marriage for those homoerotically-oriented was a façade: “And when they
reach manhood, they become lovers of boys and are not inclined by nature
toward marriage and the procreation of children, yet are compelled to do
so by the law/custom (nomos).” For English translation and
discussion see Bible and Homosexual Practice, 353-54, 384. The
Roman poet Phaedrus in his Book of Fables (mid-first century
A.D.) gives a different story, one
that describes how “tribads” (tribades, women who stimulate other
women by rubbing [tribein] the genitals) and “soft men” (molles
mares) came into being. The Greek Titan Prometheus “spent a whole day
fashioning” male and female genitals “so that he could later attach them
to the appropriate bodies.” Unfortunately, he drank too much at a dinner
party and “in a drunken stupor attached the maiden’s organ to the male sex
and male organs to women. And so it is that lust now enjoys its depraved
pleasure” (4.16). Unlike Aristophanes’ myth, Phaedrus’ fable assumes that
soft men and tribadic women have intersex features; moreover, the fable
describes the origin only of receptive males and insertive females whereas
Aristophanes’ myth portrays the origin of all those who are homoerotically
inclined. In any case, the creation of feminized males and masculinized
females is said to lie in the mythical past. For English translation and
discussion see Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of
Masculinity in Classical Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press,
1999), 211-12; Judith P. Hallett, “Female Homoeroticism and the Denial of
Roman Reality in Latin Literature,” Yale Journal of Criticism 3
(1989): 209-27, here pp. 209-11; discussion also in Brooten, Love
Between Women, 45-46.
44. Bible and Homosexual Practice,
384-85 n. 52; Kenneth J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1978), 168-70; Boswell, Homosexuality,
49-50; Brooten, Love Between Women, 149 n. 17; Schoedel, “Same-Sex
Eros,” 53-54; text and translation in the Loeb Classical Library series.
Schoedel notes that “Philo believes that feminized behavior prevents the
natural development of the male heat that leads to the consequent loss of
courage in the individual as he matures” (p. 54).
45. Cf. Brooten, Love Between Women,
157-58 n. 43; Schoedel, “Same-Sex Eros,” 58-59.
46. Cf. Hallett, “Female Homoeroticism,”
213-14; Brooten, Love Between Women, 44. Neither draws the two
inferences that I do here.
47. Text and English translation in: I.
E. Drabkin, Caelius Aurelianus: On Acute Diseases and on Chronic
Diseases (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950). For a more
conservative edition of the Latin text, with German translation and
commentary, see: P. H. Schrijvers, Einer medizinische Erklärung der
männlichen Homosexualität aus der Antike: (Caelius Aurelianus De morbis
chronicis IV 9) (Amsterdam: Grüner, 1985). Cf. particularly Brooten,
Love Between Women, 146-62, 170-73; also Williams, Roman
Homosexuality, 212-15; and Schoedel, “Same-Sex Eros,” 54-57. Brooten
(relying on Schrijvers’ German translation), Williams, and Schoedel also
supply English translations of sections.
48. According to Brooten, “These medical
thinkers must have seen male passivity and female desire for other women
as arising from something analogous to a mutated gene” (Love Between
49. ET Schoedel (p. 55).
50. It is not clear whether the
reference to “divine providence” and the purposeful character of body
parts goes back to Soranus or was added by Caelius Aurelianus; cf.
Schrijvers, Einer medizinische Erklärung, 18-24.
51. ET Brooten.
52. Schoedel notes that Plato (Timaeus
86b-87b) also drew a distinction between diseases of the body and diseases
of the mind without discounting altogether biological influences on the
latter. For Plato traces diseases of the mind “to bad upbringing or a
defective inherited constitution of the body, and blames society at large
rather than individuals (since ‘no one is willingly bad’) without at the
same time denying the need to attempt to set things right again”
(“Same-Sex Eros,” 56).
53. Cf. the discussion by Brooten,
Love Between Women, 162-71.
54. Cf. Brooten, Love Between Women,
115-41. In addition to Dositheos and Ptolemy (cited below) Brooten refers
to Manetho (1st century A.D.),
Vettius Valens (2nd century A.D.),
Hephaistion of Thebes (early 4th century
A.D.), and the Book of Hermes
Trismegistos. Brooten acknowledges that “the astrological sources
demonstrate the existence in the Roman world of the concept of a lifelong
erotic orientation” (p. 140).
55. For Ptolemy, a penetrative role by
males, whether with females or males, is “natural”; a receptive role by
males or an active role by females is “contrary to nature.”
56. Matheseos libri viii 3.6.6;
3.6.9; 7.15.2; 5.2.11; 3.5.23; 7.25.1; 3.6.15.
57. According to Williams: Firmicus
“clearly does not assume that all men are innately either “lovers
of women” or “lovers of boys,” neither does he consider these propensities
to be fundamentally opposed in nature…. We can call these ‘orientations’
if we wish, but they are not the same as the ‘sexual orientation’ of
today: Firmicus is not working within a conceptual framework that
pigeonholes all human beings as innately and permanently
homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual” (Roman Homosexuality, 171;
cf. 333 n. 58). Williams (cf. Brooten) is right that there are differences
between Firmicus’s views on homoerotic attraction and modern views—not the
least of which, I might add, is the assumption of astrological causation.
Yet for our purposes the main point is that Firmicus treated at least
most forms of homoerotic attraction as congenitally innate (perhaps
all forms, pace Williams), and most, if not all, of these as
permanent, and some of the permanent ones as exclusive (i.e., not
bisexual). Certainly these forms of homoerotic attraction meet the
prerequisites, and then some, of contemporary definitions of “sexual
orientation.” Moreover, Firmicus does indeed appear to view same-sex
intercourse per se as wrong (cf. 3.6.20) and perhaps per se
as against nature (again, pace Williams). Finally, Williams seems
to be assuming, wrongly, that modern science has proven that homosexual
and bisexual orientations are congenital and impervious to cultural
modulation. In this he is as much a captive to cultural ideology as
Since Philo stresses the overwhelming
power of pleasure . . . , a similar conception [to Plato’s Timaeus]
of a psychological disorder socially engendered or reinforced and
genetically transmitted may be presupposed. . . . The suggestion that Paul
is speaking only of same-sex acts performed by those who are by nature
heterosexual is a possibility that finds some support in at least one of
the passages from Philo . . . (cf. Ab 135). But such a phenomenon
does not excuse some other form of same-sex eros in the mind of a person
like Philo. (“Same-Sex Eros,” 56, 67-68)
59. Even if Paul had believed that
same-sex intercourse first originated in the world with the onset of
idolatry—compare the Jewish narratives in Wisdom of Solomon 13-14, 1
Enoch 6, and Jubilees 11 (with caveats in Bible and
Homosexual Practice, 249, 285-86), as well as the “pagan” argument of
Charicles in the pseudo-Lucianic Affairs of the Heart 19-21
(translation and commentary in Bible and Homosexual Practice,
165-66 n. 10)—such a belief would not mandate that idol worship was a
necessary prerequisite for all future development of homoerotic
attraction. Indeed, it obviously did not mandate this conclusion for Paul,
given Rom 6:19 and 1 Cor 6:9. Cf. too the theory of
socialization-becomes-heredity espoused by leaders of medical schools in
60. Philo makes a similar point in On
Abraham 135-36: “In the process of trying to beget children [from
other males, the men of Sodom] were given convincing proof of their
error…. Yet this proof was of no help, since they were conquered by a more
61. Similarly Brooten: “Paul could have
believed that tribades, the ancient kinaidoi, and other
sexually unorthodox persons were born that way and yet still condemn them
as unnatural and shameful…. I believe that Paul used the word ‘exchanged’
to indicate that people knew the natural sexual order of the universe and
left it behind…. I see Paul as condemning all forms of homoeroticism as
the unnatural acts of people who had turned away from God” (Love
Between Women, 244).
62. E.g., David Fredrickson, “Natural
and Unnatural Use in Romans 1:24-27,” in Homosexuality, Science, and
the “Plain Sense” of Scripture, 197-241 (particularly pp. 202, 205-7,
222). Cf. Bible and Homosexual Practice, 387-88.
63. Cf. Bible and Homosexual
Practice, 395-429; Gagnon, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice:
Theology, Analogies, and Genes,” 9-12; Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse,
Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research (Downer’s Grove:
Intervarsity, 2000); idem, “The Use, Misuse, and Abuse of Science in the
Ecclesiastical Homosexuality Debates,” Homosexuality, Science, and the
“Plain Sense” of Scripture, 73-120; Merton P. Strommen, The Church
and Homosexuality: Searching for a Middle Ground (Minneapolis: Kirk
House, 2001); Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of
Truth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996); Thomas P. Schmidt, Straight and
Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate (Downers
Grove: Intervarsity, 1995), 131-59; and Neil and Briar Whitehead, My
Genes Made Me Do It! A Scientific Look at Sexual Orientation
(Lafayette, La.: Huntington House, 1999).
64. J. Michael Bailey, et al., “Genetic
and Environmental Influences on Sexual Orientation and Its Correlates in
an Australian Twin Sample,” Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology 78 (2000): 524-36 (quote from p. 534). The most recent
(2002), and largest, representative study of same-sex attraction in twins,
done by researchers from Columbia and Yale (2002), concluded that “less
gendered socialization” in childhood, not genetic or hormonal influences,
plays the dominant role in the development of same-sex attraction. “If
same-sex romantic attraction has a genetic component, it is massively
overwhelmed by other factors” (Peter S. Bearman and Hannah Brückner,
“Opposite-Sex Twins and Adolescent Same-Sex Attraction,” American
Journal of Sociology 107:5 : 1179-1205).
65. David F. Greenberg, The
Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
@ 2003 Robert A. J. Gagnon