Christians are generally surprised when they learn how the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and its destruction in Genesis 19:1-29, does not specifically identify homosexuality as the evil for which these cities were destroyed. Biblical scholars view the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and a similar story in Judges 19 where a woman was raped instead, to condemn the violent rape of visiting guests instead of a condemnation of homosexuality. Historically, the Sodom and Gomorrah story has instead been misinterpreted by the Church as God’s judgment and punishment of homosexuals specifically because of this misinterpretation of scripture – that the men of Sodom wanted to rape the stranger-angels who were visiting Lot. So the Hebrew prophets condemned Sodom, not for homosexuality, but because of their “lack of charity” towards the angels of whom the men of Sodom believed were visiting strangers. This misinterpretation of homosexuality as a sexual sin became so widespread among the Church, that the name “Sodom” became synonymous with the word “sodomy,” although it remains a legal term for sexual acts by homosexuals and heterosexuals both anal or oral. And neither heterosexual anal sex nor heterosexual oral sex are condemned in the Bible! This article will clear up misconceptions of homosexuality in the Bible and present the Biblical case that homosexuals are not condemned by God for their homosexuality.
1. The Bible and Homosexuality
The Hebrew prophets Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Isaiah, and Amos refer indefinitely to the sin of Sodom. However, the prophet Ezekiel specifically mentions the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their mistreatment of the visiting strangers to the city — the angels coming to save Lot and his family — and not because of their desire to rape these angels:
“As surely as I am the living Lord God, the people of Sodom and its nearby villages were never as sinful as you. They were arrogant and spoiled; they had everything they needed and still refused to help the poor and needy. They thought they were better than everyone else, and they did things I hate. And so I destroyed them.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50)
In the context surrounding this passage, Ezekiel is charging Israel for having sinned worse than Sodom. And what does Ezekiel say was Sodom’s sin? Arrogance. Being spoiled. Having everything, but refusing to help the poor and needy. The prophet doesn’t focus specifically on any single sin. Rather, he says the real issue with Sodom was her pride and doing things God hates. There is no mention of homosexuality.
The Talmudic tradition (370 – 500 AD) also interprets the sin of Sodom as lack of charity toward visiting strangers. The Talmud interprets the attempted rape of the angels as the city’s violation of the social order of hospitality. Jesus made the same interpretation in the Gospel of Matthew when he told his disciples how the punishment for towns not welcoming them would be worse than that of the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15)
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus prophesies the fate of some unrepentant cities where he did some of his works and comparing them to the city of Sodom:
“Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.'” (Matthew 11:20–24)
So the sin of Sodom as described in the Bible has to do with its pride and refusing to help strangers and the needy who were in their midst, mob violence, and attempted gang rape. In other words, the real sin of Sodom was “radical inhospitality” according to Rev. Patrick S. Cheng, Ph.D. in his article, “What Was the Real Sin of Sodom?“
The Bible story of Sodom and Gomorrah begins when two angels go to Sodom disguised as travelers where they meet Lot, a righteous man with a wife and two daughters, with whom the travelers insist they stay the night as guests. Men of Sodom discover the whereabouts of the two strangers in their town and surround Lot’s house. Lot’s gracious hospitality included feeding and protecting his guests in contrast to these men of Sodom who demand Lot turn his guests over to them so that they may “yada” (Hebrew for “to know”) them (Genesis 19:5).
The Hebrew word “yada” in the Bible is a very versatile word and has several meanings depending on the context, and does not only mean “to having sex with” someone. It can also mean “to share love with” (Genesis 4:1,17,25); “to show mercy to” (Proverbs 12:10); and “to act justly toward” (Jeremiah 22:15-16). So to interpret “yada” to mean “to have sex with” as applied to Sodom, and its implication of “homosexual” sex as opposed to “rape” or “molestation”, is to apply too narrow of a interpretation of that Hebrew word. Anti-gay and homophobic people have used the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to condemn an entire sexual orientation of human beings which occurs naturally in the animal kingdom as well.
Nevertheless, in response to the demands of the men of Sodom, Lot instead offered to give them his two virgin daughters — an act which would be viewed as highly problematic by today’s standards — but the men rejected Lot’s offer and tried to storm Lot’s house. In response, the angelic guests blinded the men of Sodom preventing them from finding the door. The next day, the angels take Lot and his family away from Sodom for God to destroy the city and its neighboring city of Gomorrah.
So it is apparent the real sin of the Sodomites is pride and inhospitality to traveling strangers and ignoring the most needy among us. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author warns Christians by alluding to this true sin of the Sodomites as pride and inhospitality:
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
Later Talmudic traditions on Sodom’s sin, such as Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, considered it to be an illicit form of heterosexual intercourse.
2. Jesus’ Social Liberalism Versus Paul’s Anti-Homosexuality
The Bible was written during a time when religious society considered all outcasts, tax collectors, homosexuals, adulterers, and prostitutes as “sinners.” Women had the same status as cattle; slavery was sanctioned; and so-called “sexually immoral” people were stoned to death. But Jesus didn’t follow the social norms of those days and condemned those that did. Instead, Jesus hung out with “sinners,” prostitutes, tax collectors and even made some of them his apostles. He even declared the prostitutes and sinners where going to enter heaven before the religious people who were trying to kill him (Matthew 21:31).
The following is a presentation of the case of how Jesus was not concerned about a person’s sexual preference but was contrary to Paul’s opinions in the Bible.
Paul did not know Jesus except from his vision of the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul also didn’t take the opportunity to visit the twelve apostles until fourteen years after his conversion. Nor did he spend enough time to sit at the feet and learn from those whom Jesus lived with, taught, and appointed as apostles. Instead, Paul rebuked Peter and clashes with the Twelve on several occasions despite the fact that Jesus told the Twelve they would rule on twelve thrones and judge Israel. The only real historical facts which Paul mentioned in his letters concerning Jesus was that he was crucified and had a brother named James. Paul’s letters also displays a bizarre degree of ignorance concerning Jesus’ teachings. In fact, Paul contradicts the teachings of Jesus so many times in his letters, many scholars conclude Paul was the real founder of Christianity instead of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul admits there were divisions between his teachings and the Jerusalem apostles teachings.
The following is a list of some of the major contradictions of Paul’s teachings with Jesus concerning social and religious issues. Note however, to Paul’s credit, it may have never been his intention for his personal letters to to be elevated to the status of “God breathed” Hebrew Scriptures.
Concerning the Jews:
PAUL: Jews are condemned (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). JESUS: Jesus is the King of Jews (Matthew 2:1-2).
PAUL: Children are born into sin (Romans 3:9-10; 22-23). JESUS: Children are innocent (Matthew 18:10; Matthew 18:2-5).
PAUL: Slaves must obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5). JESUS: Jesus is your only Master (Matthew 23:8).
PAUL: Women must be silent (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). JESUS: Jesus talked to strange women (John 4:27).
Concerning the “Elect”:
PAUL: Salvation not dependent upon the elect (Romans 9:16). JESUS: Salvation is dependent upon the elect (Matthew 7:21-22).
PAUL: Don’t associate with sinners (1 Corinthians 5:11). JESUS: Associate with sinners (Matthew 9:10).
Concerning Faith versus Works:
PAUL: Salvation is by faith only (Romans 3:28). JESUS: Salvation is not by faith only (James 2:24).
PAUL: Don’t associate with non-Christians (1 Corinthians 10:18-21). JESUS: Associate with non-Christians (John 4:1-10).
Concerning the Pharisees:
PAUL: Paul declared himself a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). JESUS: Jesus condemned Pharisees (Matthew 23:13)
Concerning the Second Coming:
PAUL: The Second Coming is near (Romans 13:12). JESUS: The Second Coming is not near (Luke 28:10).
Concerning the Law of the Jews:
PAUL: Jesus abolished following the Law (Romans 10:4). JESUS: Jesus did not abolish the Law (Matthew 5:17-18)
Concerning the Law of the Jews:
PAUL: Christians are not under the Law (Romans 6:14). JESUS: Christians are under the Law (Matthew 5:17-19).
Concerning the Law of the Jews:
PAUL: The Law is death (Romans 7:9-10). JESUS: The Law is eternal life (Matthew 19:16-17).
Concerning the Law of the Jews:
PAUL: Christians don’t need to follow the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). JESUS: Christians need to follow the Law (Revelation 22:14).
Concerning Sacrifices to God:
PAUL: Jesus was a sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2). JESUS: Jesus was not a sacrifice to God (Matthew 9:13).
PAUL: We must believe in God’s sacrifice (Romans 10:9). JESUS: Even demons believe in God (James 2:19).
PAUL: It’s okay to be faithless (2 Timothy 2:12-13). JESUS: It’s not okay to be faithless (Luke 12:8-9).
PAUL: Salvation comes not by works (Romans 3:27-28). JESUS: Salvation is by works (Matthew 16:27).
PAUL: Redemption is through Jesus’ sacrifice (Romans 5:12). JESUS: Redemption is by by mercy, not sacrifice (Matthew 12:7).
Concerning God’s mercy:
PAUL: God’s mercy is limited (Romans 9:15-16). JESUS: God’s mercy is unlimited (Matthew 5:7).
Concerning the Forgiveness of Sin:
PAUL: Forgiveness is through Jesus’ blood only (Ephesians 1:7). JESUS: Forgiveness is through works (Matthew 6:14-15).
PAUL: Justification is through Jesus’ blood (Romans 5:9). JESUS: Justification is through your own words (Matthew 12:36-37).
Concerning God’s Judgment:
PAUL: People perish without the law (Romans 2:12). JESUS: Judgment is based upon Jesus’ words (John 12:48).
PAUL: Paul was ordered not to baptize (1 Corinthians 1:17). JESUS: Jesus commanded baptism (Matthew 28:19).
PAUL: Jesus is no value to circumcised (Galatians 5:2-3). JESUS: Jesus was circumcised (Luke 2:21).
Concerning Jacob and Esau:
PAUL: God hated Esau (Romans 9:13). JESUS: God is love (1 John 4:7-8;16).
Concerning Abraham’s Salvation:
PAUL: Abraham was justified by faith alone (Romans 4:1-3). JESUS: Abraham was justified by works (James 2:21).
Concerning Pleasing People:
PAUL: Please people (1 Corinthians 10:33). JESUS: Don’t please people (Luke 6:26).
Concerning Feeding the Poor:
PAUL: No work, no food (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10). JESUS: Feed the poor (Matthew 25:34-40).
PAUL: All Cretans are liars (Titus 1:12-13). JESUS: Jesus encounters a Roman with great faith (Matthew 8:5-13).
PAUL: Paul’s lies are justified (Romans 3:5-8). JESUS: Jesus condemns lying (Revelation 2:1-3).
Concerning Sexual “Outcasts”:
PAUL: Sexual “outcasts” are condemned (Romans 1:26-27). JESUS: Sexual “outcasts” are not condemned (Luke 7:36-50).
Concerning the Sexually “Immoral”:
PAUL: The sexually “immoral” are condemned (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). JESUS: The sexually “immoral” are not condemned (Matthew 21:28-32).
Concerning “Following” Other People:
PAUL: We must follow Paul (1 Corinthians 4:16). JESUS: We must follow God only (John 5:43).
Concerning Paul as a Teacher:
PAUL: Paul was a self-appointed Teacher (2 Timothy 1:11). JESUS: Jesus the only Teacher (Matthew 23:8).
Concerning Paul as a Father:
PAUL: Paul is a self-appointed father (1 Corinthians 4:15). JESUS: There is only one Father (Matthew 23:9).
Concerning Paul as an Apostle:
PAUL: Paul is a self-appointed apostle (Galatians 2:7-9). JESUS: There are only 12 Apostles, 12 Thrones (Matthew 19:28).
Concerning Paul as an Apostle:
PAUL: Paul is a self-appointed apostle (Ephesians 1:1). JESUS: Ephesians has a “false apostle” (Revelation 2:1-2)
Bible scholars speculate how Paul’s views on these issues were largely responsible for some of the greatest atrocities that ever plagued humanity in Western Civilization, such as anti-Semitism, the Inquisition, Nazism and the Holocaust, and slavery.
When you consider all of the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, it is safe to assume that Jesus loves homosexuals. Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus condemn homosexuality. True love is God (1 John 4:7-8;16) and God loves all people unconditionally because love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
3. A Humorous Open Letter to Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Dear Dr. Laura Schlessinger,
Thank you so much for educating people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When anyone tries to defend homosexuality as a sexual identity and not a lifestyle choice, for example, I simply remind them the Bible clearly states it to be an abomination (Leviticus 18:22) … End of debate! However, I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specifics of the law and how to best follow them as a true believer:
Although eating shellfish is also an abomination to the Lord (Leviticus 11:10), my friend believes it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Leviticus 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?
I know I’m not allowed to have any contact with a woman while she is having her monthly period of uncleanliness (Leviticus 15:19-24). The problem is, how can I tell? I have tried asking them, but they take offense.
I know I can buy slaves only from the nations around us (Leviticus 25:44); but a friend of mine claims this applies only to Canadians and not Mexicans. Can you clarify?
I would like to sell one of my daughters into slavery according to the Bible (Exodus 21:7). In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I suspect my other daughter is pregnant by a man not her husband. For women to have abortions in such situations, God gave Moses “water that brings a curse” (Numbers 5:20-22). Any idea where I may obtain some of this water? Perhaps I should instead just pray to God for the abortion. It worked for the prophet Hosea when God answered his prayer and aborted the fetuses of his enemies (Hosea 9:14-16). Please let me know which abortion method you believe God recommends the most.
I have a neighbor who insists on working during the Sabbath despite my constant warning that he should be put to death (Exodus 35:2). He thinks I am crazy, so am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
I know I cannot approach the altar of God because of my physical defect (Leviticus 21:21-23); but I do have prescription glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20 or is there some wiggle room here?
Should I mutilate my penis as all men are commanded to do (Exodus 12:48)? I’d like to have my doctor do it; but I think I can save money by doing it myself. Any idea on the best way to do it?
I have read that young girls in Asia are being sold as sex slaves and that our Congress is trying to stop it. We must prevent Congress from doing this and encourage all sex slaves to obey their masters as it says in the Bible (Ephesians 6:5). How do I file a protest against Congress?
I know we are not to associate with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). The problem is there are so many of them at work. Is there a polite way to tell them to keep the hell away from me?
A woman at church has authority over men and teaches Bible study which is clearly forbidden (1 Timothy 2:12). How do I get her to sit down and shut up?
I want to greet all God’s people at church with a kiss (1 Thessalonians 5:26); but I get strange looks from the women when I do — especially from their husbands. What should I do?
Because it’s permissible for a man to have many wives (1 Kings 11:3), I have asked many women at church to marry me; but I continually get rejected and people are beginning to talk. On the other hand, I know it’s good for a man to not have sexual relations with a woman (1 Corinthians 7:1), so I can’t decide whether to get married or not. Can you please advise?
Dr. Schlessinger, I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding me how God’s word is eternal, infallible and unchanging.
4. Wikipedia Links on Religion and Homosexuality
— Wikipedia Portal: LGBT
— Wikipedia Category: LGBT Christian Organizations
— Wikipedia Category: LGBT Religious Organizations
— Wikipedia Category: LGBT and Religion
— Wikipedia Page: History of Homosexuality
— Wikipedia Page: Homosexuality in Ancient Greece
— Wikipedia Page: Homosexuality in Ancient Rome
— Wikipedia Page: The Bible and Homosexuality
— Wikipedia Page: Homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible
— Wikipedia Page: Homosexuality in the New Testament
— Wikipedia Page: Sodom and Gomorrah
— Wikipedia Page: David and Jonathan (Homoeroticism)
— Wikipedia Page: History of Christianity and Homosexuality
— Wikipedia Page: Sergius and Bacchus (Roman Christian solders)
— Wikipedia Page: Christianity and Homosexuality
— Wikipedia Page: Christianity and Sexual Orientation
— Wikipedia Page: List of Christian Denominations Affirming LGBT
— Wikipedia Page: Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement
— Wikipedia Page: Queer Theology