May 6, 2015

The Bible and Homosexuality V: Sodom and Gomorrah

So now I begin my biblical interpretation and draw out of the Bible what is said about homosexuality in a run of posts that will last the majority of this series. Expect fireworks because I realize it is not I that people hate, but the God that I praise and His Holy Word. When Scripture comes out, so do the dark forces of this present age. They are clearly set against those that will speak the truth of Scripture.

The Benchmark of Scripture

I will begin with a thorough explanation of the Scripture’s (therefore God’s) position on homosexuality. For a Bible believing Christian, it should be the only position that matters. All other positions, opinions and mindsets become irrelevant next to a holy God and His commands.

Scriptural Support: Old Testament

Since there are many Scripture passages I've picked the ones most prominent, clearest, strongest and conclusive in their argument rather than scour Scripture ad nauseam to capture every reference to homosexuality and same-sex relationships. The ones I address should resound clearly enough with the readership of this blog.

Sodom and Gomorrah

We start our Scripture study in the heart of the most infamous homosexual passage of the Old Testament (disputably so). We descend on Sodom and Gomorrah, the city of the plains rife with abominations, blatant sin and disregard of God's commands.

Genesis 19:4-11 ~ “Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.

We are on the eve of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in this scene. In this context we see the two angels arriving at Lot’s household and we read that the “men of Sodom” arrived at Lot’s house surrounding it and demanded that he bring out the men so they, “could have relations with them.” Being a very hospitable host to the men/angels and sinfully warped by the surrounding influence of the city, Lot offers his virgin daughters instead. The men then begin to threaten Lot by pressing “hard against Lot” to get past him so they can force themselves on the “men.” It is at this point the angels intervene by dragging Lot back into the house and slamming the door shut. These townspeople were then supernaturally stuck by the angels with blindness. What is then even more disturbing is that these men wearied themselves trying to find the doorway in pursuit of their sin(s). It was as if the blindness had virtually no effect. It is here we see the depravity and entrenched nature of their sin. They are lost or given over to their sin (Romans 1) to the point that they blindly grope for the doorway in pursuit of it (Isaiah 59:10) (White et al-Kindle location 323-324).

In terms of homosexuality it should be noted immediately that the townspeople are referred to as, “the men of Sodom” and were, “both young and old, all the people from every quarter.” Furthermore, they (men) were there to have relations with men or וְנֵדְעָ֖ה  “we shall know” in Hebrew. Within the term to “know” here is the use of yada which we will see again in reference to sexual relations both heterosexual (Genesis 4:1) and homosexual as here (Feinberg et al-Homosexuality 313-314). In this context, the men of Sodom wanted to know/have sexual relations with the men/angels. This is a clear allusion to male-on-male sexuality or homosexuality or at least this is the pretense from the human viewpoint who did not know these "men" were angels. We then see Lot offer his virgin daughters and the response from the crowd of men was clearly not heterosexual. They paid no mind to Lot’s offer and make for the doorway to get to the men/angels. There is a clear display of homosexual desire for men and not heterosexual desire for the females of the opposite sex. It is at this point the angels intervene and their true purpose for being in Sodom begins to unfold. They are there to rescue Lot and his family and to carry out retribution against the wickedness of the city (Genesis 19:12-13) (Sailhamer-Genesis 154). The antecedent of the passage on judgment (v.13) is this passage on the men of Sodom wanting to know the angels in Lot’s home.

This episode is intended to give the justification for the doom that will visit Sodom which is immorality (Sailhamer - Genesis 154). What is even more telling is Lot’s behavior. It is clear Lot’s judgment is tainted by residing in Sodom as evidenced by his offering a mob of depraved men his virgin daughters. These are the very daughters that Lot will “know” sexually in a drunken stupor a few verses later (Genesis 19:33-34). Lot had been in Sodom so long that not only he but also his daughters (family) had become contaminated by Sodom’s sin and corrupting influence.

When it comes to the pro-homosexual view of this passage, it is viewed not from the view point that Sodom and Gomorrah were being condemned due to sexual immorality but rather inhospitality. This argument in particular comes from Dr. Daniel A Helminiak a Roman Catholic priest and John Boswell. Unlike Helminiak, Boswell uncharacteristically fails to provide any sources for this claim (Boswell-Kindle location 3005-3009, DeYoung 36). Helminiak on the other hand makes his claim directly from Scripture and claims that a majority of the remainder of Scripture does not identify the sin of Sodom as homosexuality through silence, but instead speaks of inhospitality, mistreatment of the poor, and other general sins of behavior as the basis of God’s judgment. Helminiak therefore makes a fallacious argument from silence (argumentum a silentio). He states that it is this silence of Scripture regarding homosexuality after Sodom that proves the traditional reading is in error. He then cites primarily Ezekiel 16:48–49 as his case-in-point (Helminiak 48).

Ezekiel 16:48–49 “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

Therefore, according to Helminiak, the sin of the Sodomites was that they refused to take in the needy travelers not involve themselves with homosexuality. The problem with Helminiak’s interpretation of Ezekiel’s view of Sodom is that he does not pull the entire pericope. He uses improper hermeneutics that requires that a person takes the entire limit of the passage. He leaves out Ezekiel 16:50 which states:

Ezekiel 16:50 Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.

By stopping short one verse he completely changes the character of this passage. Instead of a sin against another person these sins mentioned by Ezekiel are sins against God and are an abomination, just as they were in Sodom. The judgment of God is therefore linked directly to the later commissioning of the Law in Leviticus and the associated abominations stated there which would entail a death penalty (White-Kindle location 381). So not only were the inhabitants of Sodom inhospitable, they were also guilty of offenses that were moral abominations to God that warranted punishment. So the real question is: Do these penalties still apply today? I will cover that in coming posts as there is no short explanation. Do these penalties still apply in the literal immediate sense as we understand a litigious death penalty today as it is posed and framed in a sensational manner by opponents to Biblical Christianity? No. More on this later.

Starting with this post I will include a link to the [Bibliography] for this series.

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