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Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
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Our readers asked:

What did Jesus have to say about homosexuality?

Ann Naffziger Answers:

(CNS photo courtesy Catholic Communication Campaign)

If you were to read all four gospels thoroughly in search of Jesus’ teachings on homosexuality it would be a futile endeavor. Not only would you come to the end of the gospels without finding anything attributed to Jesus on the subject, you wouldn’t even find a single reference to the issue in any context.

In fact, there are only a handful of references to homosexuality in the entire Bible, but they are found in the Old Testament and Paul’s writings. (To put it in perspective, while there are only seven references to homosexuality, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of references to economic justice and the laws governing the accumulation and distribution of wealth.)

Jesus’ silence on the subject suggests that an issue which can be controversial and/or fraught with emotion these days was simply not a central issue in his lifetime 2,000 years ago in the land of Palestine. The fact that he didn’t address this issue leaves us all to ponder what he might say were he here today.

 
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The Author : Ann Naffziger
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Bella

    But all of those assertions of “empirical proof” (ie. the miracles) also depend on the extent to which we can trust the text of the bible to be inerrant – which it clearly isn’t – and the actuality of what’s described. I’m not saying miracles don’t happen at all, but the interpretation placed on the recounting of them is the crucial point.

    As for people believing themselves to be inherently good, I’d say that’s a whole lot healthier than people believing themselves inherently evil. In fact, in psychological terms, we’re far more likely to do good if we perceive ourselves to be good (“you are what you think”)… unless we’re operating out of fear of eternal punishment, of course :-) And personally, I can’t incorporate a doctrine of emotional blackmail and sado-masochism into my concept of God.

  • Teresak Biggs

    please list scriptures for reference amen

    • Bella

      Teresak, of whom are you asking that question?

  • marte48

    There is a documentary about a genetic scientist who goes around the world collection DNA samples from various people to track the pre-historic diaspora of DNA over the planet. He tries to explain this evidence to people who believe in their own creation myths about giant turtles and so forth, and so will never believe in DNA evidence. That is how religious people on this site think. They really do not care about scientific truth, and have no intention of ever changing their minds for any reason.

  • Joe Broadnax

    The root of all organized Christian religions is the Bible. Its touted as the “inspired” word of God, not mans. Then, for man to decide to approve things that the Bible says are immoral is just flabbergasting. Whether you agree with
    religion or not, its sorta like the U.S. and the Constitution. When you say you
    live by a document and then violate it at will, it sorta loses its meaning. In
    fact, most of the New Testament is based upon admonishing Churches about how they and their people should act and live. In the Bible, Jesus himself did not
    come to abolish the law (the Old Testament), but fulfill it. He heightened its morality, fulfilled its signs, made good on its promises and gave substance to its shadows (he clarified some things, and others remained as spoken). He did
    not come hat in hand conceding that Old Testament God was backwards and
    uninformed. God did not change, morally, in the New Testament. What God finds
    detestable (like homosexuality) one day He does not suddenly find agreeable the next. Now, if anything, Jesus says, we have a morality that now supercedes,
    and not contradicts, the moral law. All these supposedly man-made justifications for homosexuality have no merit in the Bible.

    • Bella

      Joe, I agree that the bible is the sacred text for all Christian religions, but it’s not as simple as you make out. Different Christians interpret the bible in different ways, and it’s been interpreted different ways at different times. For example, in our current era we have much greater understanding of Greek than when the KJV was being translated, due to the vast number of ancient documents which have been discovered since then. That increased knowledge affects the way we interpret certain words, and by extension, various passages in the bible.

      Whether God changes or not, humans certainly do. And if we’re not willing to admit when we may have interpreted the bible incorrectly, we will continue to assert our viewpoint vehemently…but we’d be wrong.

      I’ve given quite a few examples, in the course of this thread, of practices and interpretations which have changed since biblical times and/or through the ages – often along with advancing knowledge. 150 years ago people believed that women shouldn’t be given anaesthesia in childbirth because of Gen.3:16. For centuries, Christians believed left-handed people were of the devil (despite the only two biblical mentions of lefties being positive). Likewise, for centuries people believed that only childbearing marriages were blessed by God. Etc, etc… Do these changes of beliefs mean that God changed? No, of course not. It’s humans’ interpretation of the bible that’s changed.

    • Bella

      Joe, I agree that the bible is the sacred text for all Christian religions, but it’s not as simple as you make out. Different Christians interpret the bible in different ways, and it’s been interpreted different ways at different times. For example, in our current era we have much greater understanding of Greek than when the KJV was being translated, due to the vast number of ancient documents which have been discovered since then. That increased knowledge affects the way we interpret certain words, and by extension, various passages in the bible.

      Whether God changes or not, humans certainly do. And if we’re not willing to admit when we may have interpreted the bible incorrectly, we will continue to assert our viewpoint vehemently…but we’d be wrong.

      I’ve given quite a few examples, in the course of this thread, of practices and interpretations which have changed since biblical times and/or through the ages – often along with advancing knowledge. 150 years ago people believed that women shouldn’t be given anaesthesia in childbirth because of Gen.3:16. For centuries, Christians believed left-handed people were of the devil (despite the only two biblical mentions of lefties being positive). Likewise, for centuries people believed that only childbearing marriages were blessed by God. Etc, etc… Do these changes of beliefs mean that God changed? No, of course not. It’s humans’ interpretation of the bible that’s changed.

      And incidentally, there are quite a few things in the OT that God apparently found perfectly ok (even commanded the Israelites to do) which only a sociopath would find acceptable today – things like r*pe, and murder, and chopping off people’s toes, and so on.

      • Joe Broadnax

        Some of what you say makes sense, EXCEPT, the new languages and text dont change the base meaning of what God has said are the rules to live by. If you consider the Bible as not just a story, but a history as well, yes, God did tell Israel to do some things, but as God he had reason for doing them. For us to say that only a crazy person would do them means that we dont have the license to do them, unless of course commanded by God. In addition, later, God changed some of these and told man not to kill. I also understand that the many versions of the Bible are mans interpretation, but also mans desires. For example, King James and the Church didnt want certain things included in the Bible. What men are trying to do today is to use the excuse that God mandated certain supposedly evil and vile things to justify things like homosexuality, that God in all languages, and all Bibles has said is abhorrent. So, in trying to find fault with Gods words, we as men are putting ourselves on the same level as him, thinking we know better. Men today do enough raping, murder, and other things without Gods help or approval. If man cant morally do what he wants to do, he instead attacks the Bible and God. Its an age old cop-out.

      • Bella

        Actually, it’s much more challenging to accept the bible as a discrepant document than an inerrant one, because it means that there are shades of grey instead of just black and white. In fact, claiming the bible is inerrant is what I’d call a cop-out, for the following reasons: a) because it’s claiming something without checking the facts, b) because doing so avoids intelligent engagement with the text, and c) because it relies on the presumption that the claimant’s interpretation of the bible’s meaning is the same as God’s :-)

        You said “we dont have the license to do them, unless of course commanded by God” – but then you have the issue of who determines what God commands. Or which commands you look at. Or, indeed, how you view the chronology of events. For example, you said “later, God changed some of these and told man not to kill”. But “later” doesn’t make sense unless you’re assuming that the bible is entirely in chronological order (which it isn’t) or you’re completely ignoring any kind of chronology.

        My point was that there are plenty of things that used to be deemed “evil and vile” (to use your words) **because of biblical verses about them** which no longer are, even by the most conservative Christians, and there’s no good reason to automatically assume that homosexuality shouldn’t also be in that category.

        PS. If God can change commands about killing, why can’t he change other commands?

    • petree yep yep

      well said. very well said

    • AnyWaveWillDo

      The root of all Christian religions is The Church. The Bible was put together and “ratified” by The Church.

  • Monica Boothe

    Good Morning everybody!!…I have tried to just stay out of this but I have just a few things I need to say. First of all I would like to say that I am at least 100% sure that Jesus did not tell us to argue over His Word, debate it, add to or take away from it. All he told us to do is to love one another(John 13:34-35), forgive one another(Matthew 18:21-22), and to spread the word about Him to everyone we get the opportunity to spread it to, making them disciples and baptizing them in His name( Matthew 28:19).. What’s so complicated about that? We humans fight and argue, have resentments towards one another and hold unforgiveness in our hearts… That is not the example He set for us to follow. They took Him, tortured Him, and beat Him into hamburger meat almost and then hung Him on a cross….And then what y’all?…He asked God to forgive them. Can you imagine having that kind of love in your heart?? He didn’t have to go and do that y’all..he went freely to pay the price for us because He loves us that much.
    Hi Bella! I have a couple questions for you cause I am confused.You say you are a Christian yet you argue against the Bible. Whatever happened to walking in faith? Pointing fingers and calling people names, Fundamental Christian, (Not sure what that is) and disputing God’s word. What kind of Christian are you? I dont mean that in a mean way. Jesus told us to spread the Word, not tear it apart. Someone who might be ready to turn their life over to God might even read that and just decide against becoming a Christian all together and ultimately lose their salvation.
    Jesus said He would ask the Father to send us a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever and show us truth. (John 4:16) My question was “well then why can’t people see the truth?” and it is answered in the very next verse….Jesus said, “The world cannot accept Him” (cannot live by faith)”because it neither sees or knows Him.” Simple as that.
    My point is you can’t go about saying you are a Christian and in the same breath argue against the Bible. You just can’t. You cannot have it both ways.
    In answer to your questions…1.Did God actually say,”Let there be light?” 2. Did God actually take a rib from Adam to form Eve? and 3. Did God actually forbid them to eat from the tree?
    I would have to say “yes”. I believe we should take the Bible at face value. Know that it simply means what it says. People should quit trying to read more into it, or less.

    • Bella

      Monica, I’m not arguing against the bible. I’m arguing against a particular view of the bible – that is, taking it all totally literally, and claiming it’s inerrant and there are no discrepancies in it. Jesus told us to love God with our _minds_, as well as our heart and soul and strength (Mark 12:30, quoting Deut 6:5).

      Well, when I actually started to read the bible with my mind – that is, putting preconceptions aside as far as it’s possible to do so, and allowing the text to stand on its own merits – what I found was all the things I’ve been saying here: that there are discrepancies, that it’s not all literal or meant to be read that way, that it is culturally/time-biased, and that all of that means that a fundamentalist perspective (and if you don’t know what that is, then I suggest you do a bit of research; it’s not name-calling, it’s simply a label describing a particular belief set and the practices which flow from that) simply doesn’t hold together logically. That didn’t destroy my faith in Jesus as the ultimate example of human godliness, nor my faith in the power of Love to renew and change people.

      As far as your point of taking the bible at face value, I’d argue that you most probably don’t in many other sections of the bible (or, for example, you wouldn’t ever go to church without a hat on, as per 1 Cor.11:5), but if you do then I’d invite you, too, to consider the range of discrepancies I’ve mentioned in this discussion and try to explain each of them while still asserting the bible is literal and inerrant.

      • Monica Boothe

        …Ok then :)..I stand corrected… I appreciate your response..i have no argument .I admit there is a lot of stuff i don’t know about the Bible…all I know is what I know, what I feel and What all God has revealed to me… I have enjoyed meeting and talking with you…Have a good evening and may God Bless you :)

      • Bella

        Drat, so you’re another who won’t actually examine the discrepancies? One day I’ll find someone who will! :-)

        I’d encourage you to find out more, though, both about what the bible says and about the broad spectrum of Christian thought; it sounds like you’re only aware of a very small part of both at the moment, and we’re much more convincing as Christians if our faith is informed by wider understanding. Or, in other words, we can’t convincingly “give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet. 3:15) if we don’t properly understand the alternatives.

      • Elisabeth Rees

        You have raised a really interesting question which is rarely addressed by the Church. Why does the established Church still maintain such a vehement opposition to homosexuality whilst ignoring other required rituals of the Old Testament like the covering of hair in church or the order not to wear cloth of mixed fibres?. It is blatantly hypocritical to choose to obey some rules, while flouting others.
        Christians are called to follow the teachings of Christ. Jesus freed us from the rigid, binding rituals of the old ways and took us into a new age. Yet many Christians fail to understand Christ’s powerful words: The truth shall set you free. Why do we cling to the old rules that Christ swept away when he specifically called us to serve HIS ways? His message is so beautifully simple: love one another as I have loved you. He didn’t discriminate in this message. And neither did he make any judgement on homosexuality. Christ’s testimony is the most beautiful, purest message ever told, and it is often lost on those who cling to the binding rules of the Old Testament (which were required at the time, but are no longer needed)
        It pains me to hear Christians preaching hatred about anything, but especially about a subject over which Jesus did not make a ruling. Christians have no mandate to condemn anybody – and I mean ANYBODY.
        Jesus does not require you to be a bible scholar – He doesn’t care if you can’t even read. If you hear His message, pick up your cross and follow Him, He will show you the way and set you free from whatever has chained you. In Him, there is no malice and no bitterness – only love.

  • marte48

    It took the church 400 years to apologize to Galileo for teaching that the earth goes around the sun. They also believed that the earth was flat, and that anyone traveling west would eventually fall off the edge of the earth.

    • Jason Green

      Let’s not confuse the Bible with “the church”. By “the church” I assume you mean the Catholic church. Let’s be clear, one does not need the church to find salvation. One only needs Jesus Christ. I personally favor and attend a non-denominational, Bible-based Christian church. It seems to me that churches of any denomination, no matter how well meaning, tend to distort scripture to some degree. So is “the church” infallible? No. Is the Bible infallible? Yes. And that is where we should be looking to find answers.

      • Bella

        Here we go again. If the bible is infallible, then what’s your explanation for all the discrepancies?

      • Jason Green

        There are none.

      • Bella

        Oh dear, oh dear, oh DEAR!!! Clearly you haven’t been reading all my posts about them. There are *many* – as in, I could come up with a list of more than 40 with no trouble at all.

        Would you like them all at once, or one by one?

      • Jason Green

        It’s your choice, but let me say this: you will always see the seeming contradictions because you have already made up your mind to reject the Bible as the truth. So I would imagine that no matter how valid an explanation I give you for any seeming contradiction, you’ll dismiss it and tell me why I am wrong.

        As I have mentioned in other posts, there are many questions about the Bible for which I have no answer. For instance, according to the Bible, the earth is about 6,000 – 10,000 years old. How can this be when the universe is estimated to be nearly 14 billion years old and the earth itself 13 billion years old? What about the dinosaur fossils dating back millions of years? The simple answer is, I don’t know. But let me ask you this; which is more important, having a definitive answer to the age of the earth or ensuring that I spend my eternity in heaven as opposed to hell? One is a trivia question of little value. The rest means the difference between eternal joy or eternal suffering. I am willing to accept that I will not get all the answers I wanted before I became a believer. I was hesitant when I became a Christian because there were many questions I wanted answered. But this is the very definition of faith.

      • Bella

        Ah, another Christian judging someone else’s faith! (Also something forbidden in the bible.) I’ve stated many times in this discussion that I’m a Christian, and that the bible is much more believable as truth when Christians don’t make such easily-disproved claims of inerrancy. And I’m not talking about things as vague as the age of the earth, which is undetermined by either belief system.

        There are *facts* given in the bible which are directly contradictory to other facts also given in the bible. And no the-bible-is-inerrant Christian has EVER given me a plausible explanation for any of them. In fact, they don’t even try. I assert there are discrepancies, they challenge me to come up with some, and then when I do they simply change the subject, end the conversation, or tell me they’ll get back to me (and never do). That has been the case even across this discussion, as you’d see if you read it all. But let’s see if you’ll do any better.

        So, we’ll start in the New Testament, shall we? Mark 15:25 says they crucified Jesus “at the third hour”. Yet John 19:14 says that it was the *sixth* hour when Jesus was brought before Pilate. Impossible that they’re both right!

        Or what about when Jesus sent out the Twelve? Did he command them to take a staff with them (Mk 6:8) or
        not to (Matt.10:10)?

        Or what about the fact that the OT quote cited in Matt. 27:9-10 isn’t from Jeremiah (ch.32) at all? It’s from Zechariah (ch.11), as is clearly seen by the number of shekels and the reference to the potter’s field.

        Or for a whole swathe of discrepancies in the OT, go to the census of Israelites returning from Babylon. The figures are given in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 – but there are different numbers all through the lists, and even different names for one or two of the tribes.

        And that’s just the beginning!

      • Danny Cruz

        Excuse me Bella but when did Jason ever judged you. He was just stating his optionn on eternity.

        May God bless you.

      • Bella

        He said “you have already made up your mind to reject the Bible as the truth.”

      • Jacob Anderson

        Just as you claim Bella… you did the same thing stating the contradictions. I’m not claiming to believe anything. I’m just stating the objective fact that you are doing the same thing. Expressing your right to say what you want.

        The key here is, Bella, Jason is doing so respectfully. You on the other hand are not. Out the gate you were acting high and mighty.

        Try taking a look at yourself before you do the stereotypical atheist christan basher. You make atheists look bad and so do all the others like you. Just as “shove it down your throat” as some christans can be.

      • Bella

        Ah, but see – I’m NOT rejecting the bible’s truth. I’m acknowledging it as a true record of faith, and containing timeless Truth, *despite* its discrepancies. I’m not atheist, I’m Christian. (I’d love to know how I can be giving atheists a bad name when I’m not one!) I’m not bashing Christians, I simply object to the small percentage of Christians who are so closed-minded that they give Christians in general a bad name. We’re not all like that, and it’s perfectly possible to be Christian and not fundamentalist.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “out of the gate” – this discussion has been ongoing for months, and I’ve been involved in it since very nearly the beginning. It may well be the first time I’ve replied to Jason (though even that I wouldn’t be certain about) but if my reply to him was somewhat terse, he should read back over the entire thread and realise that his comments have completely ignored many things that have already been said before.

        But I’d rather he spent his time trying to figure out explanations for the discrepancies – because I don’t think it’s possible to do that AND hold to a doctrine of inerrancy without some very impressive doublethink :-)

      • marte48

        why do you want the bible to be a science book?

      • Jason Green

        I’m not sure what you mean.

      • Stacy Drisker

        What do you think of this passage from your precious Christian bible found in Exodus 21: 7-11. And I quote: “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.” End of quote! To think that people actually believe that any loving God would have anything to do with a book that condones such evil is evidence of what a frightening thing the Christian faith can truly be!

      • marte48

        you are entitled to your opinion. but you’re just opinionated, not right, and just because children believe in Santa Claus – that does not mean there is one.

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