Observations on Homosexuality and the Bible

I’ve been asked about Scripture references that pertain to homosexual acts. Actually, I wasn’t asked directly. The person was talking to my wife Beth, and asked her if I’ve written anything on the subject.

Well, I’ve studied the subject extensively, and a dozen years ago I wrote, or began to write, an essay on the topic. But I was taking an exhaustive approach to the subject, so after writing fifteen pages, I wasn’t even through the pertinent passages found in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament, if you prefer), let alone the pertinent passages in the New Testament.

I don’t remember what sidetracked me at the time, but the bottom line is I never finished that exhaustive (exhausting?) essay. I may finish it one day, but for now I’ll take a more streamlined approach to the subject. The following Bible passages are not the only Scripture references that apply to a discussion of homosexual perversion, but they are clear statements that reveal God’s view of homosexual acts.

Genesis 13:13; 18:20-21; 19:4-9; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude verse 7.

Genesis 13:13; 18:20-21; 19:4-9

The sin of Sodom was homosexual acts of perversion. It becomes clear in Genesis 19 that this is the case, but before that chapter more general references to the wickedness and sinfulness of the Sodomites are found. I would recommend that the reader take the time to read chapters 18 and 19 of Genesis. I will not be discussing the full contents of those chapters here, but referencing key verses within those chapters.

Initially, reference to and commentary about Sodom is made in Genesis 13:13. We are told that the “inhabitants of Sodom were evil, and exceedingly sinful before Yahweh.”[1]

In Genesis 18:20, Yahweh God says that the “outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great,” and that “their sin has become exceedingly great.”

Then in the next chapter, Genesis 19, when the two messengers of God (typically translated “angels”) made their way into Sodom, Abraham’s nephew Lot extends hospitality to them (verses 1-3). But before they were able to lie down to sleep for the night, verse 4 tells us that “the men of the city—the men of Sodom—surrounded the house, from the young even to the old, all the people from the limits of the city.”

And the Sodomites demanded that Lot turn “the men” (angels) over to them, so that they, the men of Sodom, could “know them,” a common Biblical idiom for having sexual intercourse. What the Sodomites—all the men of the city—had in mind was homosexual rape. There is no question here as to what their evil, exceedingly sinful practice was. The sin of Sodom was the sin of homosexual acts.

Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13

Leviticus chapter 18 lists numerous Mosaic laws pertaining to sexual relations, or more specifically, unlawful sexual relations. The chapter specifically names adultery, incest, child sacrifice and bestiality…and in the very same context, homosexuality. Verse 22 describes the homosexual act as lying with a man as one would with a woman, and calls it a “detestable act” or “an abhorrence” or “an abomination” (depending on your translation). Chapter 20:13 of Leviticus reiterates the prohibition, as well as repeating the nature of the act as being detestable or abhorrent. This verse further adds that penalty for this sin is death.

Romans 1:18-27

In Romans 1, Paul refers to those who suppress the truth and would not honor God, who gave themselves over to futile speculations and darkened hearts (verses 18-23), and so “God handed them over to the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves” (verse 24). Paul then goes on to refer to this as their “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” (verse 25). Verses 26-27 require no explanation; Paul was very clear about the nature of the “shameful passions” he’s discussing.

“Because of this, God handed them over to shameful passions. For their females exchanged the natural sexual function for what is contrary to nature. Likewise, the males also abandoned the natural sexual function of the females, and were inflamed in their appetite for one another, males with males committing shameless acts, and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Notice that in the two verses quoted above, my translation reads “females” (Greek, θῆλυς [thēlus][2]) in verse 26 and “males” (ἄρσην [arsēn][3]) and “females” (thēlus again) in verse 27. Most English Bible versions read “women” and “men” in these verses. Since there are more commonly used Greek terms for “women” and “men,” the terminology Paul used here is significant, and should be translated more literally, as I have done.[4] By using these words, Scripture places an emphasis on the gender involved of those committing these unnatural acts. It is the gender of their birth that is emphasized, that they are going against.

Note too that verse 26 references females involved in homosexual acts. Though this is not often addressed in Scripture, it is here.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul lists types of wicked persons that will not inherit the kingdom of God. In that list, the last two mentioned in verse 9 refer to homosexual acts. Unfortunately, the first term found in the original Greek text has often been badly mistranslated in a number of English Bible versions.

The old King James Version, Young’s Literal Translation, the English Revised Version, the American Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible all render the Greek word into English as “effeminate.” That is too vague, and not that accurate.

Worse still are the versions that render it “male prostitutes” (New International Version, New Revised Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible), as though the issue here is prostitution. While that can be involved, the original word addresses a specific type of homosexual sin, not prostitution.

Better Bible translations have tried to render into English the more precise nature of the acts communicated by the words Paul was inspired to write. However, due to the indecent nature of the terms, these versions tend to render the concepts as politely as possible. An admirable goal, perhaps, but as a result the renderings can be less than clear. Thankfully, these versions also typically include an explanatory footnote.

The earlier editions of the Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952, 1962) renders the two Greek words in this verse as simply “nor homosexuals.” The 1971 edition of the RSV changed that to “sexual perverts.” There was an accompanying footnote that stated, “Two Greek words are rendered by this expression,” but that’s still not very specific.

The New King James Version reads “homosexuals nor sodomites.” The NKJV also provides footnotes to these words. For the word “homosexuals,” a footnote reads “catamites, those submitting to homosexuals.” For the word “sodomites,” a footnote reads, “male homosexuals.” Still not as accurate as it could be, but better.

David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible refers to those “who engage in active or passive homosexuality.” Similarly, the English Standard Version renders the two Greek words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as “men who practice homosexuality.” And while that rendering summarizes the nature of the two Greek words in question, the ESV also provides a very helpful footnote: “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.”

Let’s dig deeper, and look at those two Greek words found in the last clause of verse 9. The Greek text here reads οὔτε μαλακοί, οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται.[5] Let me transliterate that for you (that is, use characters from the English alphabet to spell out those Greek words): oute malakoi, oute arsenokoitai.

Yeah, I know…it still all Greek to you, right? The word oute that occurs twice means neither, nor. The word malakoi is the plural form of the adjective that literally means soft. In ancient Greek it was used “especially of catamites, men and boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually.”[6] The word arsenokoitai is the masculine plural form of a noun meaning “one who engages in same-sex activity, sodomite, pederast.”[7]

So that last clause in 1 Corinthians 6:9 could be rendered “nor catamites nor sodomites.” That would be accurate, but since catamite and sodomite are pretty much archaic terms in politically correct/modern English usage, that rendering might not be that clear.

However, between the definitions of terms just provided and the helpful renderings and footnotes in the NKJV, CJB and ESV, a sufficient explanation of the homosexual activity is presented in this verse. But in all of this examination of the lexical details, let’s not forget that these passive and active homosexual partners are mentioned in a list of those not inheriting the kingdom of God. That is another way of saying that such sinners have chosen a lifestyle that is condemned by God; they are lost.

Thankfully, Paul reminds the Corinthians of their past involvement in such sins, thus showing us the efficacy and magnitude of God’s grace for the sinner. In verse 11, he shows that some of the Corinthians were such practitioners, and yet through repentance and faith they were “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Forgiveness for sin, including the sin of committing or participating in homosexual acts, is available to those willing to let go of the sin and receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation.

1 Timothy 1:10

In this personal letter from Paul to his protégé Timothy, the apostle is listing those for whom the Law was intended (literally, laid down). It was intended for the lawless, the disobedient, the ungodly and sinners. Paul then proceeds to list specific example of such sinners, including murderers, those practicing sexual immorality,[8] kidnappers, etc.

And in verse 10 Paul also lists arsenokoitais. We saw this word in Paul’s Corinthian letter just mentioned. This Greek word is the masculine plural form of a noun meaning “one who engages in same-sex activity, sodomite, pederast.”[9] A number of English Bible versions render this Greek noun as “sodomites,” others as “homosexuals” or “practicing homosexuals.” The NIV renders it “perverts.”

Jude verse 7

Jude, who refers to himself simply as a bondservant or slave of Jesus Christ and the brother of James (literally, Jacob), in verse 7 specifically mentions Sodom and Gomorrah. He refers to them as “having utterly given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone in search of different flesh.”

The first clause, “having utterly given themselves over to sexual immorality,” is based on one Greek word: ἐκπορνεύσασαι [ekporneusasai] the active participle feminine plural form of the verb ἐκπορνεύω [ekporneuō]. It is a word not found in secular Greek writings, and rarely occurs in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint. As for the Greek New Testament, it is only found one time, here in this verse.

Ekporneuō is a compound word, a strengthened form of the more common verb πορνεύω [porneuō], “to prostitute one’s body to the lust of another; to give oneself to unlawful sexual intercourse; to commit fornication.”[10] When the preposition ek is prefixed to a verb in Greek it is equivalent to “utterly, entirely…denoting completion or perfection.”[11] So in this rare verb ekporneuō “the prefix ek seems to indicate a lust that gluts itself, satisfies itself completely.”[12]

As for the second clause in this verse, “gone in search of different flesh,” the adjective “different” here (it could also be translated “another” and is in some Bible versions here rendered “strange”) is not a reference to the Sodomites searching for sexual partners of a different gender. This is clear from the historical narrative, as we have already seen. The adjective refers rather to the Sodomites seeking a “different” kind of sexual copulation than what is natural.


As I said at the outset, I have not presented here an exhaustive treatment of the subject of homosexuality in the Bible. The nine Bible passages discussed here are not the only ones that could have been considered in a discussion of homosexual perversion. But they are clear statements that reveal God’s view of homosexual acts.

Summing up, then, what view of homosexuality is revealed in the passages examined above? Let’s review.

Those practicing it were called “evil,” and “exceedingly sinful.” Such acts were considered an “abomination,” and were mentioned in Scripture in the same context as incest, kidnapping, child sacrifice and bestiality. In the Law that God revealed to Moses, those guilty of committing homosexual acts should receive the death penalty. In the New Testament, we are told that they would not inherit the kingdom of God. Such desires were referred to as “shameful passions” and “contrary to nature,” “shameless acts” and “error.”

When we consider these statements of Scripture on the subject of homosexuality, they stand in stark contrast to the statements we typically hear today on the subject. That notwithstanding, Biblical teaching, Biblical Christianity is clear on the subject.

Some in our day have tried to reinterpret the words of Scripture to make it conform to today’s politically correct agenda, but the truth of what the Bible has to say on the subject is clear. Others have simply decided to dismiss the Bible altogether, considering it a mere amalgam myths and ancient social mores.

If you’re reading this and you challenge whether the Bible is the written revealed Word of God, then that is an important but separate discussion. For the person professing to be a Christian, however, the only right and consistent view is to take the Bible at its word.

The Christian cannot simply pick and choose cafeteria style the Biblical teachings they choose to accept. If we profess Him to be our Lord, then that means accepting His Word, even if it’s uncomfortable for us. Taking such a stand on the Biblical view of homosexuality in the face of so much opposition today, even militant opposition, is a tall order. But for the believer, it’s the only consistent choice.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, translations from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek New Testament quoted here are my own.

[2] Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, Translated Revised and EnlargedCorrected Edition, p. 290.

[3] Thayer, op. cit., p. 75.

[4] A few other versions have rendered these words literally, including the English Darby Bible by John Nelson Darby, Young’s Literal Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible.

[5] Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from the Greek New Testament are taken from The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, compiled by Maurice A. Robinson and William Grover Pierpont, 2005. It should also be noted that this Robinson/Pierpont edition of the Greek New Testament is the text I use in my translations of New Testament passages.

[6] Bauer, Walter, Arndt, William F., Gingrich, F. Wilbur & Danker, Frederick W [BAGD]. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 488.

[7] F. Wilbur Gingrich, revised by Frederick W. Danker, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, p. 26.

[8] The Greek word for translated “sexual immorality” here is the word from which we get the term “porn.” It is πόρνος, or to transliterate again, pornos.

[9] F. Wilbur Gingrich, revised by Frederick W. Danker, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, p. 26.

[10] Thayer, op. cit., p. 532.

[11] Thayer, op. cit., p. 192.

[12] Thayer, op. cit., p. 199.