October 29, 2020

The Council

Proclaiming the truth to the world.

Some have bought the lines thrown out by those who argue the Bible is compatible with homosexuality. Robert Rowe was throwing some of those liberal arguments out there in an article he wrote.


Certain schools of theology will have you learn artificial systematic ways in which we can organize these laws, placing them into ceremonial, civil, etc. Unfortunately no one in the ANE (including Moses) would even understand our artificial musings.

Rowe’s mistakes are that it will take an actual argument to demonstrate these claims. The claim that distinctions in the Law are artificial would just be the claim in dispute. Often law codes have distinctions in types of laws. Some are instrumental goods and others are intrinsic goods. The distinction between moral, ceremonial, and civil are a starting point and not the end of the conversation.

First, notice that there is no mention of lesbians (anywhere in the bible or the ANE). All we read about is an absolute ban on anal intercourse between two men, and this is not unique to the bible. The entire ANE and classical world held to the same views. The reason for this ban had a common denominator: the emission of semen for the purpose of copulation, resulting in either incest and illicit progeny or, as in this case, lack of progeny.

Robert adopts the argument that homosexuality isn’t condemned because it was morally wrong, but rather because of ANE thoughts about sperm. That in ANE the idea was sperm is a life and any waste was killing a human life. I asked for Hays’ thoughts on the article and his first point was that the case against homosexuality doesn’t fall on a direct appeal to Leviticus 18:22 but we can use it indirectly when Paul alludes to it in the New Testament. His second point was also insightful. He said:

Even with their prescientific knowledge, they knew that once a woman is manifestly pregnant, it’s “wasting seed” to continue having intercourse with her. Likewise, they knew that once a woman is past the childbearing years, it’s “wasting seed” to continue having sexual intercourse with her. Yet they didn’t think ejaculation in those “wasteful” situations was wrong. So even though they didn’t know everything we know about sexual reproduction, they didn’t think the sole justification of sexual intercourse was impregnation.

This is also agreed on by scholars like Dr. Robert Gagnon:

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the non-procreative aspect of same-sex male intercourse constitutes the sole or even primary reason why such behavior is banned in the Holiness Code. First, the various behaviors prohibited in Leviticus 18 can be linked under a common rubric only when that rubric is stretched beyond “failure to procreate.” Incest (including that between in-laws) and adultery were prohibited even though (and partly because) such sex acts could result in procreation. Sex between a woman and an animal is arguably prohibited because it does not result in procreation, yet it does not result in a loss of human “seed.” Child sac1ifice destroys what is procreated but it is not a failure to procreate. Once the heading for Leviticus 18 broadens beyond “failure to procreate” to “a threat to the integrity of the Israelite lineage” or “affronts to procreation,” the implicit motive clause for the interdictions against male-male intercourse need no longer be restricted to “wasting seed” in the strict sense of failing to procreate. Second, if failure to procreate were the central concern, it is puzzling that a number of other sexual acts that do not lead to pro-creation were left out, such as heterosexual sex during a woman’s pregnancy. The death penalty (or, indeed, any penalty) was not prescribed for masturbation even though it resulted in loss of semen (the issue in Gen 38:8-10 is not masturbation itself but rather failure to fulfill kinship obligations in levirate marriage). Third, it seems unlikely that the highly emotive reference to intercourse between males as an “abomination” can be limited to a failure to procreate. Is it reasonable to say that from the standpoint of the framers and transmitters of these prohibitions the fundamental problem with bestiality was that it did not produce offspring? Surely there was a different level of revulsion expressed for bestiality and homosexual intercourse than there would have been in the case of heterosexual sex with a “barren” woman (as Philo makes clear in Spec. Daws 3.33-50).
~The Bible and Homosexual practices(Pages 134-135).

Dr. Gagnon would argue in the notes that the argument is actually to be turned around on itself. It would entail since a woman is necessary for conception and procreation she would be expected to marry a man. Instead of demonstrating that it permits lesbianism the argument can easily be turned against it. Robert Rowe continues by providing prooftext for his view of the Mosaic law being an outdated law code. He appeals to the Sermon on the Mount. The issue is Jesus isn’t as Rowe thinks abolishing the Law. That is the very thing denied in verse 17. The passage is about the eschatological fulfillment of the Law in according to Isiah and then he goes on to correct the things the Jews were taught by the Pharisees.

The other text he presents is Galatians 6:2. That is where he thinks the Law of Christ is abolishing and replacing the Law of Moses. That ends up contradicting his initial prooftext, but that isn’t the likely interpretation to many. Leon Morris would maintain the Law of Christ isn’t some law code but is just a general statement about following the commands of Christ. I was once in correspondence with a New Testament scholar and the point he raised is that we shouldn’t forget that God inspired the entire Bible. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity and has commanded his people in both testaments.

The other text he uses is Hebrews 8:6. The issue for this is that the superiority of the New Covenant is that it has a better Priesthood compared to that of the Mosaic. That is understood by anyone that believes that not all laws are of the same stripe. That doesn’t establish his point and his point leads to Jesus being incorrect on his own purpose of becoming incarnate.

Finally, you might be thinking about Romans 1 as including the topic of homosexuality for both men and women, but in actual fact has nothing to do with homosexuality. Rather, Paul is recounting the Genesis story, starting with Genesis 1, migrating into Genesis 2-3, and then reiterates Genesis 6:1-4 when he says:

For this reason, God delivered them to degrading passions as their females exchanged their natural sexual function for one that is unnatural.
(Romans 1:26)

Nowhere in this passage does Paul allude to lesbianism. He calls what is unnatural the sexual union between divine beings and women, as he recalls this verse:

some divine beings noticed how attractive human women were, so they took wives for themselves from a selection that pleased them.
(Genesis 6:2)

Robert Rowe prefers the interpretation that Romans 1 is just a retelling of the Genesis narrative. I think the issue with that it has no force for his argument. The argument of the first three chapters are to establish the all have sinned against God.

The tense Paul uses in vv. 19– 31 need not indicate a single past experience; 21 and, more important, this view fails to explain the heart of this passage: the characterization of all those upon whom the wrath of God falls as those who possessed the truth of God but turned from it. Paul says more than that all people experienced the consequences of an original turning away from God, or even that all people shared such an original turning away. He insists that those who turned were also those who knew better, and who are consequently deserving of God’s wrath. This, coupled with the obviously universal thrust of vv. 18 and 32, makes clear that this foolish and culpable rejection of the knowledge of God is repeated in every generation, by every individual. Every person is “without excuse” because every person— whether a first-century pagan or a twentieth-century materialist— has been given a knowledge of God and has spurned that knowledge in favor of idolatry, in all its varied manifestations. All therefore stand under the awful reality of the wrath of God, and all are in desperate need of the justifying power of the gospel of Christ. We will never come to grips with the importance of the gospel, or be motivated as we should be to proclaim it, until this sad truth has been fully integrated into our worldview.

Moo, Douglas J.. The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 98). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

The fact of the matter is that Genesis is at best merely alluded to in speaking about the image of God. But so are other OT text like Jeremiah 2:5, Hosea 4:7, Exodus 32-34, and Psalm 106:20. But we don’t suppose that it is merely a retelling than any of these other allusions. The other unconvincing argument is that Genesis 6 is what is being referred to in this passage. That assumes we take that Genesis 6 was about Divine Beings instead of blasphemous warrior kings. But how does that fit with the idolatry theme? The other issue is that verse 27 doesn’t fit with this idea that women engaged in sex with Divine Beings. Where are men depicted in Genesis 6 committing the same unnatural acts like women did? Robert seems to be infatuated with reading his beliefs or pet peeve doctrines of Genesis anywhere in the Bible as much as he can. It seems like he thinks that it goes to the story of Abraham, Sodom, and Gomorrah. The issue with that interpretation is that most don’t read Genesis 18 as the issue is mainly about homosexuality, but rather about homosexual gang rape. That doesn’t fit with Romans 1:26-27 which picture the relationships as voluntary exchanges. The last issue is that Paul’s conclusion doesn’t fit his reading because he concludes that which he just says applies to the people he is writing to. That they have “no excuse” and shouldn’t be hypocritical. That wouldn’t make sense if all he did previously was a historical telescoping of the Pentateuch.