A voice for the non-religious in Swindon

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” ― Christopher Hitchens

Pray Away the Gay: Or How to Edit the Bible

Hello All!

I appeared on BBC Wiltshire earlier today to talk about the Same-Sex Marriage Bill. Unfortunately due to nerves I am not sure I was as eloquent or articulate as I might have been; a problem I will not have when I next go in to do my religious “Thought for the Day” on the show.

There is one point I didn’t get around to that I really wanted to- what the bible says about Homosexuality.

The Old Testament

One problem is that there is very little in the old testament which directly says don’t have gay sex. In Genesis 19:1-11 when two angels appeared before Lot, the last righteous man in Sodom (2 Peter 2:7-8), they decided to stay at Lot’s house resulting in all the men of the town trying to break in so that they could rape the Angels. Lot attempted instead to offer his two virgin daughters to the rape gang. This has often been used as an example of Homosexuality being so wrong it would be better to offer up your family for rape than let a man rape another man, however Lot was just trying to be a good host to his divine guests (Genesis 19:8). We need something a bit more solid, and luckily for us sinful mortals the Book of Leviticus has just the ticket.  We all know this famous piece of Christian kindness:

“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.” (King James Bible, Leviticus 20:13)

Pretty clear that; kill men who have sex. There is no mention of Lesbianism though so clearly the ancestors of modern Christianity didn’t mind a little bit of lady love happening from time to time and who can blame them? Leviticus is not a good go to place for Christians who oppose Gay Marriage (or homosexuality) in general though as 4 verses earlier Leviticus says this:

“For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.” (King James Bible, Leviticus 20:9)

If Leviticus is why you oppose gay marriage then it makes you an awful hypocrite if you don’t also kill your unruly children. Any person defending the Bible by saying things such as “Oh but that’s the old testament” should be quickly reminded that Jesus himself said multiple times that every rule and law in the old testament is still true (Matthew 5:17-19, Luke 16:17, 2 Timothy 3:16, and 2 Peter  1:20-21). In fact Jesus even reminds people that they should follow the commandments in the Book of Leviticus twice, specifically the part about killing Children (Matthew 15:4-7, Mark 7:9-13). Given that we now know how Jesus feels about killing kids, we can surely assume the same was true for Gays?

Jesus Against the Gays

Despite clear views on when infanticide is appropriate Jesus never outright said anything prohibitive of homosexuality, although Jesus did talk on marriage and adultery (sex outside of marriage, biblically). Famously Christ said that you should cut out your eyes if you are too often tempted by pretty things in short skirts and cut off your right hand if that is just too tempting and keeps edging up your leg betwixt your thighs; better to lose limbs than to be tempted by sexuality outside of marriage (Matthew 5:27-30). Also, on marriage, Jesus says that it is a union of a man and a women that can never be undone (Matthew 19:4-6), however in this passage Jesus is really trying to get the point across that you are not allowed to get divorced. The modern Christian position on these two passages is that you can’t have sex outside of marriage and marriage is for a man and a women, therefore gays can’t get married and therefore cannot have sex without sinning. I struggle with this logic though, as if one is to infer from Matthew 19 that because heterosexuals can marry homosexuals cannot, we may as well infer that heterosexuals cannot divorce and homosexuals can! To be fair though that argument is hardly in the spirit of the Jesus’ Jewish upbringing.

Jesus… For the Gays?

So we know the Old Testament says kill people who have gay sex, and that Jesus supports every single law written in the old testament. We know that Jesus did not want people having sex outside of marriage because they would go straight to hell if they sinned in that way, and he probably thought marriage was between a man and a woman only. It would almost seem as though there is a clean cut case for Christians to oppose Gay rights. If only the Bible were so simple! As I said earlier Jesus said nothing directly prohibitive of homosexuality, but he did not leave it out completely. In fact Jesus seems to think that homosexuals actively engaged in coitus could be going to heaven! In Luke 17 Jesus is talking about how on the day of Judgement families will be split apart as the individuals who are right with God will be taken to the kingdom of Heaven and those who have sinned will be left behind when he says this:

“I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken and the other left.” (King James Bible, Luke 17:34-35)

Before I continue I should explain the use of the word ‘Grinding’ (as if two men in one bed didn’t make it clear enough) because many people are shocked to hear Jesus use such callous language. The Gospel of Luke has been translated from Greek, and using the term ‘grinding’ for sex was the normal and adult way to talk about the act in those days.  In fact, the use of the term grinding is commonly used in the bible to mean sex (Job 31:9-10, Judges 16:21, Lamentations 5:13). I don’t want to go into too much detail here about the ancient Greek language, but it seems pretty clear what is meant in Luke 17; you can be gay and go to heaven.

In Conclusion

So there we have it- taking the most literal interpretations Jesus does not want gay people to commit adultery, and therefore go to hell, by having gay sex outside of marriage; marriage being a strictly heterosexual affair. He says you must follow the old law and kill gay people who have sex, but only the gay men who have sex. Even though gay people in the act of sexual congress are committing adultery and going to Hell they may good enough to be taken to the kingdom of Heaven anyway. That is what the bible and Jesus have to say about homosexuality. I’d advise using a different book to make your mind up about this issue…

(Note: in many versions of the Bible created within the last 30 years Luke 17:34-35 has been altered, normally to something along the lines of “I say to you, there will come a day when two people will be in the same bed and one will be taken whilst the other is not. And two women will be grinding corn in the mill together and one will be taken and the other will not.” There is no justification for this as the Greek is very clear in assigning Gender and it does read two male men in bed. Likewise, there is no reason to think that the two women were grinding some food stuff, this has simply been added seemingly to avoid awkward questions. This passage has been so difficult for Christians to accommodate within a framework that calls homosexuality wrong that they have merely changed the original passage and in my opinion that reeks of intellectual dishonesty and insecurity)              


15 comments on “Pray Away the Gay: Or How to Edit the Bible

  1. Ron Goetz
    March 25, 2014

    It’s gratifying to see this information is getting out to people. It’s hard for many of us to absorb or accept new information, ESPECIALLY information that disrupts our worldview.

    Thanks for the good work, Fred!

  2. Pingback: Pray the Gay Away, or How to Edit the Bible | Bible-Thumping Liberal

  3. jasonmsilverman
    March 25, 2014

    Your reading of the meaning of “grind” is a bit misleading. Of the three passages you cite for a sexual connotation, only one has any at all (Job 31:10), and there it is much more complex than you make it sound. It is within a context of agricultural activities being made forfeit for sin, and grinding (grain) thus follows on the previous actions of sowing and reaping. Moreover, grinding was a female activity, and thus also carried connotations of inferiority (to men) and of slavery. The Job passage is playing with a sexual connotation as counterpart to accusations of adultery. The Greek translation of the passage, however, does not use the word “grind.” This meaning does not fit the next citation which is the only one which in the Greek uses the word “grinding”: Judges 16:21 refers to the actual place where grain was ground. Here is connotes slavery and his subjected status. In Lamentations 5:13 the Hebrew is reference is to millstones, in parallel to wood, as terms, again, of servitude. The Greek has “weeping”.

    • Ron Goetz
      March 25, 2014

      Jason, Fred Pound is justified in his citations from the Hebrew Bible. The word “grind” was also used sexually in ancient Sumerian, Hittite, Tocharian B, and Latin.

      The Lamentations reference is to war time rape of young men. Lamentations is a book that expresses Israel’s horror and despair over being conquered by the Babylonians. The book mentions, for example, mothers boiling and eating their own children during the siege (Lamentations 4:10; 2:20). Lamentations 5 describes the brutality of Babylon’s conquering soldiers. “Our enemies rape the women in Jerusalem and the young girls in all the towns of Judah. Our princes are being hanged by their thumbs, and our elders are treated with contempt,” (5:11-12, NLT).

      The devastation is completed in verse 13: “They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood,” (KJV). Young men and children are sexually assaulted. There seems to be a common unwillingness on the part of Protestant translators to clearly render the obvious sexual violation here.

      Catholic translators of the Douay Rhiems version, on the other hand, made the meaning clearer: “They abused the young men indecently: and the children fell under the wood.” “Taking young men to grind” refers to the rape of the young male population, which was a humiliation often inflicted on defeated enemies and had nothing to do with sexual orientation. Man-on-man rape is a well-documented phenomenon in the history of military conquest, even if most non-academics don’t know about it.

      To equate the rape of women and young girls and hanging princes by their “thumbs” with young men grinding meal at a seems absurd to me.

      While the evidence from Hebrew is persuasive to me, there is an example in classical Greek where “grinding the mill” refers to sex. This example is more to the point since the New Testament has come to us in Greek, not in Hebrew This example from secular Greek is also significant because it was written at the same time Luke was probably written. This example demonstrates that the word “grind” was used sexually in Greek during the time of Jesus and Luke.

      Plutarch (ca A.D. 45 to 120) was born in Greece near Delphi, and was a contemporary of Luke. One of Plutarch’s essays, “The Banquet of Seven Wise Men,” is a fictional conversation among some famous men who lived around 650 BCE. After a brief lull in the conversation, Thales of Miletus speaks:

      “This remark arrested the attention of the whole company, and Thales said jestingly…. “when I was at Lesbos, I heard my landlady, as she was very busy at her handmill, singing as she used to go at her work:

      Grind, mill, grind;
      For even Pittacus grinds,
      King of great Mytilene.”

      In rhythm with her literal grinding, the landlady sings a bawdy work song: “Grind, mill, grind.” Whether the song dates back to 650 BCE is not the point. What matters is that Plutarch records “grind” used as a sexual metaphor in the last quarter of the first century A.D., overlapping the probable years when Luke was composed.

      Plutarch’s story confirms that he considered the work song to be, more or less, a sexual joke, possibly a lesbian joke since he says that Thales of Miletus told the story set on the Isle of Lesbos ”jestingly.” The historicity of the story itself is not at issue here. What the Plutarchian evidence does is to testify to Greek’s sexual use of “grind” during the overlapping period of Plutarch, Luke, and Jesus.

      • Fred Pound
        March 25, 2014

        Ha! Ron I was just about to reply with everything you just have! Nice.

      • jasonmsilverman
        March 25, 2014

        I doubt most of the writers of the NT knew Hebrew; their OT was likely the LXX or its versions, and as I noted above, of those passages in their Greek translation, only the Judges one has the word “grind” in it. Nevertheless, even in the Hebrew, one can only argue for any sexual connotation in the Joban passage without being tendentious.
        There is lots of sex in the HB, and a quite a lot of assumptions behind it not in line with modern assumptions, this is true. But those passages aren’t the best places to argue for it.

  4. noelgoetz
    March 25, 2014

    Ecclesiastes 4:11 NIV
    “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” It wasn’t only common, but ‘wise’ to find a sleeping partner for the sake of warmth, which is hardly worthy of twisting for the sake of a sexual inference. Early into the early 19th Century, more often than not, complete strangers (of the same sex) would be asked to share beds at an Inn. If you were single it would have only been appropriate for single men to sleep with single men, as it would be the same for women, for the sake of space, thrift and warmth.. Yes you’ve heard this argument before, but to pervert the practice just because our society has become so overly sexualized, eager in it’s lasciviousness to pervert anything that has to do with a ‘bed’, cheapens your argument.

    • Fred Pound
      March 25, 2014

      We don’t insinuate from the sharing of a bed- the argument is based more on the grinding together for “warmth”.

    • Ron Goetz
      March 25, 2014

      Noel, dear brother, your reference to nineteenth century practices of bed-sharing are as relevant to this discussion as your references to contemporary over-sexualization, lasciviousness, and perversion.

      Let’s look at Old Testament antecedents. There are two verbal antecedents for the phrase, “two men in one bed.” They are found in Leviticus, and refer to the very practice of two men in one bed.

      “Do not bed a man as you would bed a woman. It is an abomination.” “Bed” as a verb is in the verse, just as we speak of “bedding” someone.

      Jesus is subtly but directly refuting the Levitical prohibition against same-sex relations. There are numerous place where Jesus said, “You have heard it said . . . but I say unto you . ..”

      Your comments are strong on colorful rhetoric, but short on substance: exegesis and analysis.

      • Noel Goetz
        March 26, 2014

        Brother Ron, Thanks for clarifying Jesus’s ‘subtle’ remarks. I may be strong on rhetoric, short on substance exegesis and analysis (and spelling ability) but you must certainly be the High Priest and arbitor of subtleness, as most of what I read is so subtle that one must contort context, into a game of Twister. I might be persuaded if the context of the verses had no bearing, but the theme is so evident here, that it would be disingenous to say that it had no bearing. “As in the days of Noah” is followed by the women grinding and men in the field.” IF your interpretation was correct, you would using it as a warning to be ready, instead of an acceptance of homosexuality. To put it another way, if one of either party was a believer and one was not, then why would you not make the point that they were unequally yoked or to educate others on the importance of salvation? But your silence on that point would lead one to believe that this is of little or no importance to you. The ‘in our face’ fact is that in context these verses are a warning with little to no warm and fuzzy sexual overtones. Secondly, The reading of the two co-joined verses could just as easily be making a point of person(s) being taken at anytime during the night activity of sleeping or during the day time working. And to say that one rendering is superior to the other is pure speculation. I’m a simple man. I believe God’s Word to be wholly inspired including the words of Paul. If Jesus wanted to make a point about homosexuality, in my limited understanding and others like me who are not theologians, he would have made it clear as to what he was saying, as this ‘WAS NOT a parable’ that he would have intended to have hidden the meaning from certain groups, which was his practice. Jesus was not one to mince words. The Word is perfectly clear on exactly what levitical practices and beliefs were taken out of context and twisted by the scribes and pharasee’s and had become a religion unto themselves. He made a point to condemn practices of ceremonial washing, work on the sabath, tithing, lack of compassion, and other burdens on the people etc. etc. that the religious elites had twisted to condemn others, and to lay unreasonable burdens on them. Unless I’m missing something and I be interested in your response as to why Jesus did not address homosexuality as being misinterpreted by the scribes and Pharasee’s. I may be narrow in my interpretation but to err on the side of caution is far better than giving licence concerning a subject that there few if any certain guidelines. That all said, the nice thing about you and me is that as brothers we strongly disagree and still love on another deeply.

  5. Ron Goetz
    March 25, 2014

    Jason, can you give us a link to your blog?

  6. Ron Goetz
    March 26, 2014

    Fred, I know this is a humanist site, and that your subscribers may not want to witness yet another Christian debate. I appreciate your kind indulgence.

    • Fred Pound
      March 26, 2014

      Not at all! This is the internet, ideas and debate are free. It is enjoyable to see.

  7. Ron Goetz
    March 26, 2014

    Noel, it is not “the days of Noah” that immediately precede two men in one bed and two women grinding in the same place. What precedes the couples material is “the days of Lot,” and Sodom. [Fred, I am aware of the problems of equating Sodom with same-sex relationships.] This is the immediate context, and the immediate context has undeniable same-sex implications. The same-sex interpretation of verses 34 and 35 takes into account the immediate context of Lot and the destruction of Sodom. I have written on this specific topic extensively on my blog—I thought you had read them.

    There is nothing in the text that mentions “unequally yoked.” If Jesus or Luke wanted to provide an explanation for the differing treatment of the people, they would have provided it. Scholars have been baffled why Luke’s gospel gives no hint. The answer is not, however, to introduce a reason for somewhere else in the Bible, unless good reason can be argued. Some people treat the Bible like a giant jig-saw puzzle, pulling pieces from a numerous other puzzles in the Bible to assemble a new one of their own.

    While it is your calling to warn people about “the importance of salvation,” this is not my calling. According to Paul, God gives a special calling to “evangelists.” I have previously written to you at length about the diversity of gifts and callings, that not all people are called to the same ministry. Please stop assuming that I must act in accordance with your sense of calling to evangelism and ministry.

    There are always multiple interpretations of words and verses in the Bible. That is one reason Paul wrote, “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” Your comment about “pure speculation” is an example colorful rhetoric.

    The scriptures give ample “guidelines” on judging others, on love, and on forgiveness. They are clear, and are a good indication of a person’s spiritual condition. The inability to stop judging others, the inability to love and forgive, the inability to refrain from making pronouncements on who is rejected by God, these also indicate a person’s spiritual condition.

    Noel, my son is gay. He loves the Lord, and wants to serve God’s people. There’s nothing for me to worry about except for loving him, accepting him the way God does, and standing by him in his journey.

    There’s nothing to worry about.

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2013 by in Bible, Homosexuality, Same Sex Marriage.

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