Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource



Printer Friendly Version

Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic


The Bible and the Issue of Homosexuality - P. 2

The Bible and the Issue of Homosexuality - Part 1
The Bible and the Issue of Homosexuality - Part 2



Homosexuality under the New Covenant

Now that we know how homosexuality was dealt with in the Old Covenant, we can understand what happens with homosexuality under the New Covenant.

In the New Testament, the word "fornication" refers to "illegal sexual practices." Adultery is one form of fornication, but it specifically refers to sexual conduct when one party is married to someone besides the sexual partner. (Definitions provided below.)

4202 porneia
from 4203; TDNT - 6:579,918; n f
AV - fornication 26; 26
1) illicit sexual intercourse
1a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
1c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12
2) metaph. the worship of idols
2a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols

4203 porneuo
from 4204; TDNT - 6:579,918; v
AV - commit fornication 7, commit 1; 8
1) to prostitute one's body to the lust of another
2) to give one's self to unlawful sexual intercourse
2a) to commit fornication
3) metaph. to be given to idolatry, to worship idols
3a) to permit one's self to be drawn away by another into idolatry

3429 moichao
from 3432; TDNT - 4:729,605; v
AV - commit adultery 6; 6
1) to have unlawful intercourse with another's wife, to commit adultery with

Now, Jesus and the apostles, including Paul, were Jews and they lived in a Jewish culture. When they spoke of "the Law" they meant the Law of Moses, the Law that the Jews lived by, the Law that encompassed the very nature of being a Jew. And when they spoke of "unlawful intercourse" they were therefore referring to intercourse that was "unlawful" according to the Law that they knew as Jews, the Law of Moses. This is very basic according to GH method (grammatical historical method) and involves the principle of progressive revelation.

As we can see in Leviticus 20, sexual conduct shared by two men is listed amidst several "illegal" sexual practices including adultery, sex with one's father's wife, sex with one's daughter in law, and sex with animals. And as we saw from the context, the punishment for these specific acts of fornication was death. There was no purification under the Old Testament for these acts.

Under the New Testament, however, the practice of stoning was replaced by the practice of excommunication. This begins informally with Jesus in John 8:3-11, when Jesus hinders the crowd from stoning the woman caught in adultery. And we see the power of excommunication given to the apostles formally by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-18. And we see Paul applying this rule of excommunication for those who practiced sexual conduct described as illegal by Moses in 1 Corinthians 5.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication (4202) among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife... 9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Notice that the Greek word for "fornication" in verse 1 is the same as the definition provided above - Strong's No. 4202, which is defined as an "unlawful sexual act." And notice also that the particular act described is one where a man has sex with his father's wife, which is one of the specific acts described in Leviticus 20:11, side by side with homosexuality.

Leviticus 20:11 And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them...13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

At this point, we can see that Paul is being perfectly consistent. And the only thing that has changed is what is done with those who commit fornication. They are no longer stoned to death, but instead are excommunicated. And now under the New Covenant, they are allowed to repent (which means turning from the sin), in which case they are accepted back into the Church.

But although the method of dealing with homosexuality and other forms of fornication changed, the list of things included as fornication and how they were defined is kept the same. No place in the New Testament describes or even hints at a change in these definitions as they are given in basic, simple terms in the Old Testament.

In Galatians 5, Paul is clear that those who commit fornication or adultery won't inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh...19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

In fact, as we can see in Galatians 5, Paul states that those who walk in the Spirit do not fulfill the desires of the flesh, which include adultery and fornication. This is similar to Paul's words in Romans 8.

Romans 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace...13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Here again, Paul tells us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will cease from the works of the flesh, which Paul listed for us in Galatians 5. And Paul also tells us that the sons of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God, who walk after the Spirit. Conversely, if one does not cease from the works of the flesh, we know from these passages that one is not walking in the Spirit. And consequently, if one doesn't walk in the Spirit, according to Paul that person is not a child of God because they do the works of the flesh. This applies to many things beyond homosexuality, but as we will see, it applies to homosexuality as well.

We already have one strong indication of that through the fact that Paul lists fornication in Galatians 5. Fornication is defined as those sexual acts outlawed in the Law of Moses. And we have seen that Leviticus 20 outlaws two men engaging in sexual activity with each other. Thus, homosexuality was an act of fornication. And Paul, a first-century Jewish man trained in the Law of Moses, knew that and wrote such things according to how he used such terms.

Further proof comes from a comparison of Galatians 5:16-21 with Paul's similar words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. (This will lead to a further comparison to 1 Timothy 1.)

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, (733) 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Clearly Paul has the very same idea in mind in both passages. He is saying that those who do the things listed in these passages will not inherit the kingdom of God and are not children of God, since they do the works of the flesh instead of following the Spirit as children would. And no doubt if they were children of God they would be His heirs.

But what is most significant is that in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul uses the word "arsenokoites" (Strong's No. 733), which is translated as "abusers of themselves with mankind." However, the definition for this word is much simpler.

733 arsenokoites
from 730 and 2845;; n m
AV - abuser of (one's) self with mankind 1, defile (one's) self with mankind 1; 2
1) one who lies with a male as with a female, sodomite, homosexual

As we can see, the definition is identical with Leviticus 20:13, which refers to a man lying with a man as a man would lie with a woman. Actually, arsenokoites is a compound word, which simplifies the meaning. It is a compound of two other Greek words "arrhen" and "koite," which are defined below.

730 arrhen
probably from 142;; adj
AV - male 4, man 3, man child 1, man child + 5207 1; 9
1) a male

We see "arrhen" referring to "male" or "man" in such passages as Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6, Luke 2:23, Romans 1:27, and Galatians 3:28.

2845 koite
from 2749;; n f
AV - bed 2, conceive 1, chambering 1; 4
1) a place for laying down, resting, sleeping in
1a) a bed, couch
2) the marriage bed
2a) of adultery
3) cohabitation, whether lawful or unlawful
3a) sexual intercourse

As you can see, the word "koite" means "a place for laying" and "arrhen" means simply "a male." Koite is used one other time by itself (not as a compound word) in Hebrews, where it clearly refers to the marriage bed, which further demonstrates that Paul's use of "arsenokoites" refers to sexual activity, since "koite" is used elsewhere to refer to the marriage bed.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed (2845) undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

This very simple compound Greek word being used by a Jew such as Paul who is trained in the Law of Moses is a very clear reference back to this very same phrasing in Leviticus 18 and 20.

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Further evidence that Paul has Leviticus in mind when he used the phrase "arsenokoites" comes by use of this same word in 1 Timothy 1:9-10.

1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind (733), for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.

First, here in 1 Timothy 1, Paul refers to the Law of Moses in verse 9. Then he states that the Law of Moses is for persons who do certain things. Then he lists several examples including a few peculiar ones, "murderers of fathers," "manslayers," "menstealers," and among these "arsenokoites" (men who lie with men.) Paul is saying all of these things are listed in the Law of Moses. And we have already seen that this is the case from our earlier study where we find all 4 of these peculiar phrases as crimes without purification but requiring death.

"Murderers Of Fathers And Murderers Of Mothers"
Exodus 21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

"Manslayers"
Numbers 35:16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. 17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. 18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

"Menstealers"
Deuteronomy 24:7 If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.

"Men Who Lie with Men as with a Woman"
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

There can be little doubt that Paul's use of the word "arsenokoites" is meant to refer back to the fornication laws in Leviticus 20, where "a man lying with a man as with a woman" is listed among other types of fornication as an offense requiring death without purification. However, as we have said, in the New Testament, the punishment was excommunication not death. The penalty changed and forgiveness was made possible for those who turned from the sin, but the prohibition of the sin and the definitions of what acts were considered fornication and unlawful did NOT change.

And as we have said before, there is no mention of "love" or "circumstance" or "how the two men feel about each other." No consideration or exception is granted for any of these things. No consideration of any other details is given.

This is the way that it begins in the Old Testament. There are no passages changing this. And the statements in the New Testament only indicate that it continued unchanged except for the form of punishment. There is nothing in the text of the New Testament that would in any way indicate that we should alter our interpretation of God's simple, clear standard laid out in the Old Testament. The only reason to alter our interpretation comes from modern notions and assumptions infused into the text without warrant from the text itself.

One last point needs to be made. Notice how in 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Paul lists "one man lying with another man as with a woman" (arsenokoites) as "contrary to sound doctrine."

1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind (733), for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.

This is very similar with Romans 1, where Paul also speaks of homosexual behavior, again using identical descriptions.

Romans 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Just as in 1 Timothy 1 Paul lists "one men lying with another man" as contrary to sound doctrine, in Romans Paul lists "men turning from women to lust after each other" as an effect of "changing the truth of God into a lie" and the work of those who did not "like to retain God in their knowledge." In fact, Paul here again uses language similar to Leviticus 18 and 20 in which one man lies with another man engaging in activity that men normally engage in with women.

We know that Paul is talking about sexual activity here for 3 reasons. First, the comparison to an activity done between a man and a woman, just as occurs in Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, and 1 Timothy 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and Hebrews 13. Second, the use of the word "lust," which is the Greek word "orexis" (Strong's 3715), which means "desire, longing, craving for." So, we know that the men leave the natural use of women and instead crave one another. And third, Paul says "men with men" engaging in activity that is "unseemly." The Greek word for "unseemly" is "aschemosune" (Strong's No. 808), which occurs 1 other time in the New Testament when it refers figuratively to shame by way exposure of nakedness.

Revelation 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame (808).

808 aschemosune
from 809; n f
AV - that which is unseemly 1, shame 1; 2
1) unseemliness, an unseemly deed
1a) of a woman's genitals
1b) of one's nakedness, shame

As we can see "aschemosune" is derived from "askemon" (Strong's No. 809), which Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Corinthians 12:23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely (809) parts have more abundant comeliness.

809 askemon
from 1 (as a negative particle) and a presumed derivative of 2192
(in the sense of its congener 4976);; adj
AV - uncomely 1; 1
1) deformed
2) indecent, unseemly

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is figuratively describing the idea of body parts that are more indecent. He uses the related word "askemon" from which "aschemosune" is derived. Revelation uses "aschemosune" to figuratively refer to shame of nakedness. And so, in Romans 1:25, when Paul refers to men turn away from the natural use for women and instead lust after each other and work that which is "aschemosune," men with men, we can see that Paul is eloquently pouring into this phrase the ideas of shamefulness, nakedness, and the private parts of the body.

There is no doubt that Paul is referring back to Leviticus 18 and 20, which compare one man lying with another man with a man lying with his father's wife or with his son's wife. Sexual activity between men is in view here.

Furthermore, Paul's inclusion of the phrase "their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature" indicates that he includes lesbianism among these unacceptable sexual practices and considers it equivalent with male homosexuality, which he lists side by side with it. Having demonstrated from the vocabulary and phrasing that Paul is indeed talking about sexual activity between two men in verse 27, we know that Paul is also talking about sexual activity between two women in verse 26, because verse 27 begins with the word "likewise." The Greek word for "likewise" is "homoios" (Strong's No. 3668), which means "likewise, equally, in the same way." Because of Paul's use of this word we know that verse 26 describes sexual behavior just as verse 27 does, only verse 26 focuses on women and verse 27 focuses on men. Therefore, Paul's statements in the New Testament also condemn lesbianism, not just male homosexuality.

In closing, we can see that there is nothing but uniformity and perfect consistency between the Old and New Testament regarding the condemnation of any man who engages in sexual acts with another man. The fact that no mention of "love" or "circumstance" or "how the two men feel about each other" can be found anywhere in the texts indicates that no consideration or exception was granted on such grounds. The only thing that mattered was if sexual action took place and if it did, then the two men were guilty regardless of circumstances.

Simply put, there is no warrant or indication from these text that specifics mattered beyond the simple consideration of whether or not sexual conduct had occurred. Sure, we can infuse our own assumptions and specifics into texts without any warrant or indication from the text that specifics mattered. But then we are just basing our beliefs on our own assumptions and inserting our own ideas into the Bible, in which case the resulting "interpretation" has no weight since it rests entirely on our own assumptions and is not exegetical. For a better explanation of exegesis, please visit our article "Intro: Exegesis and Hermeneutics." Just as Romans 1 and 1 Timothy state, men have always exchanged the truth of God for a lie, choosing not to retain the knowledge of God and teaching things contrary to sound doctrine when it comes to homosexuality.


In Summary
1) The understanding of the Bible's view on homosexuality originates and builds in the Old Testament.
2) The Old Testament passages are unconcerned with specific circumstances and state in the simplest terms that the mere act of sexual conduct between 2 men is immoral.
3) This Old Testament prohibition of homosexual conduct was NOT in the category of actions for which purification was prescribed (including by sacrifice).
4) Instead, the Old Testament prohibition of homosexual prescribed death.
5) Because purification or sacrifice was not prescribed or made available for homosexual conduct, we cannot conclude that this prohibition ended when the New Covenant ended purification rituals, cleaning practices, and sacrifices.
6) The New Covenant replaces stoning with excommunication.
7) The New Testament uses language identical to the Old Testament description of homosexuality, referring simply to the idea of "a man engaged with another man in activity usually reserved for a man and woman."
8) The New Testament does not change the definition of fornication, which is defined as "unlawful sexual acts."
9) Using this Old Testament description, Paul plainly states in 1 Corinthians 6, that such behavior disqualifies a person from inheriting the kingdom of God.
10) In Romans 8 and Galatians 5, Paul also states that a person must turn from such acts of the flesh in order to inherit the kingdom of God and in order to be considered a child of God.
11) Any person who engages in homosexual conduct is neither a child of God nor an heir to the kingdom of God. (According to Paul, this is also the case for adulterers, those who participate in any other form of fornication, witches, idolaters, heretics, drunkards, murderers, thieves, covetous/materialistic, and extortioners. So, homosexuals should not be singled out.)


Ante-Nicene Writers

There are not many writers who comment directly on the subject of homosexual behavior. However, what we do find is all condemning of the practice. Among authors that we might consider reliable as well as those that we might consider more obscure, all condemn the practice. Thus, there is no support for any form of homosexual behavior in the early writings - only condemnation. The quotes below are the hardbound edition of A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, by editor David W. Bercot, copyright 1998.

It is well that they should be cut off from the lusts of the world, since "every lust wars against the spirit" and "neither fornicators, nor homosexuals...will inherit the kingdom of God." - Clement of Rome, c. 96, W, 1.34

Some polluted themselves by lying with males. - Aristides, c. 125, E, 9.269

The Greeks, O King, follow debased practices in intercourse with males, or with mothers, sisters, and daughters. Yet, they, in turn, impute their monstrous impurity to the Christians. - Aristides, c. 125, E, 9.279

They do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways. - Athenagoras, c. 175, E), 2.143

Men play the part of women, and women that of men, contrary to nature. Women are at once both wives and husbands...O miserable spectacle! Horrible conduct! - Clement of Alexandria, c. 195, E, 2.276

The Christian man confines himself to the female sex. - Tertullian, c. 197, W, 3.51

The coupling of two males is a very shameful thing. - Tertullian, c. 200, W, 3.509