Bible and Same-Sex Marriage
church is not of one mind. I expect this issue to continue to be raised until
society comes to terms with it.''
Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle, March 21,
2004 (speaking after Methodist minister Rev. Karen Dammann was acquitted in a
church trial over her sexual orientation).
recently as March, a CBS poll found that religion is a factor in people’s views
of same-sex marriage: “Three in four people who say religion is extremely important
in their lives would favor a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage,
and three in five think there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.”
And a Pew Research Center survey released in November, 2003, concluded that a
person’s religious beliefs are a “major factor” in determining how one feels about
sexual minorities: “highly religious people are much more likely to hold negative
religious views ... regarding sexual orientation and sexual minorities continue
to have an enormous impact on public policy. The current political row over civil
marriage equality is only the most recent example of this fundamental reality.
And it is all the more ironic considering that the Bible really has very little
negative to say (some argue nothing) about sexual orientation and quite a bit
to say in a positive vein about same-sex relationships. One might logically conclude
that a systematic and concerted effort to educate the public mind about the Bible
and same-sex marriage might help stem the anti-gay tide. Yet, with the exception
of several notable religious activists, we in the LGBT community
devote little time and energy to informing ourselves or others about what the
Bible really says regarding sexual orientation.
directed at sexual minorities derives its moral justification from supposed biblical
condemnation. For nearly three decades, however, credible scholars and theologians
have systematically and repeatedly debunked and refuted the antigay interpretations
of the "Terror Texts" found in Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27,
and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10. According to Ezekiel, Sodom’s real
sin was pride and ignoring the needs of the poor.[i] The sexual
proscriptions found in Leviticus were most concerned with ritual impurity and
had nothing to do whatsoever with the ethical or moral behavior of persons engaged
in same-sex intimate relationships.[ii] Like the ritual proscriptions
of Leviticus, Paul’s famous alleged condemnation in Romans is also about idolatrous
worship practices, not homosexuality.[iii] Finally, most translations
of “malakoi” (lit. soft, effeminate) and “arsenokoitai” (lit. “man-bed”) in 1
Corinthians and 1 Timothy are linguistically dubious. When one objectively and
rationally considers the historical, linguistic, and cultural contexts
of these five sets of verses, one conclusion is inescapable and irrefutable: the
Bible does not condemn sexual minorities.
fact, the Bible hosts several same-sex intimate relationships and holy unions.
The story of David and Jonathan is one of several queer-friendly stories in the
Bible. Ruth and Naomi is another. The encounter with Jesus of the Roman centurion
whose "pais" (G3816: boy-servant) lay sick at home in bed is another.
There are also many stories of eunuchs throughout the Bible which might be interpreted
in a "queer" context. These stories belong to us! We must drag them out of the
closet where they’ve been hidden all these centuries, dust them
off, and lift them up for
the entire world to see: “Look!
Here we are – in the one refuge others never thought they’d find us – the Bible!”
of these relationships more closely resemble the archetypal “traditional” marriage
propagandized by the radical religious right than do many biblical or even contemporary
heterosexual couplings. For example, David’s and Jonathan’s holy union covenant
contained four identifiable components: the bonding of two souls in love, the
familial aspect of their relationship, a mutual exchange of obligations and covenant
oaths between David and Jonathan. David and Jonathan were bound to each other
by their love. Jonathan’s soul was “knit” to David’s soul. “Qashar” (H7194), the
Hebrew word used in 1 Samuel 18:1, meant, “to tie,” or bind and to, “gird, confine,
compact.”[iv] This meaning is strikingly similar to the meaning
of the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24[v] that is translated
“joined”: “dabaq (H1692) to cling, cleave, keep close.”[vi]
David and Jonathan perceived that their holy union made them each a member of
the other’s family. “Jonathan said to David: ‘Go in safety, inasmuch as we have
sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord will be between
me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.'"[vii]
the evidence in their case is so conspicuous is part of what makes David and Jonathan
unique. They conducted their relationship openly. David and Jonathan lived in
a culture that accepted their relationship without a second thought. Their story
played a prominent part in the narrative of 1 and 2 Samuel. This prominence is
further evidence regarding social and cultural acceptance at the time the story
was told and written. The biblical validation of their holy union is that David
“was prospering [acting wisely] in all his ways for the Lord was with him,”[viii]
and that their covenant was made, “before the Lord.”[ix] If
God viewed their relationship poorly, these pieces of textual evidence simply
would not exist. Through their story and others, God affirms our existence and
sanctifies same-sex, same-gender holy unions.
of years ago, David and Jonathan joined with each other in a holy union that was
affirmed and validated by God. The time has now come for our state and federal
governments to follow God’s lead and legally recognize the validity and sanctity
of our relationships.
“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,” (Ezekiel 16:48-49).
What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality: Millennium Edition. Daniel A.
Helminiak, Ph.D. (2000) Alamo Square Press; P.P. 51-67.
Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse. Dr. Rembert Truluck, Ph.D. (2000) Chi Rho
Press; P.P. 208-213.
[iv] H1285. Vine’s Concise Dictionary
of the Bible. W.E. Vine, edited by James A. Swanson, John R. Kohlenberger III,
and Multnomah Graphics. (1997, 1999) Thomas Nelson Publishers. “Vine’s Concise
Dictionary of the Bible combines in one handy volume condensed versions of W.
E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Nelson’s Expository
Dictionary of the Old Testament by Merrill Unger and William White, Jr. For the
first time these popular works are blended into one continuous presentation,”
(publisher’s note from the foreword). P. 73.
[v] ‘For this
reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife;
and they shall become one flesh.’(The Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Barker, Kenneth,
General Editor (1999) Zondervan Publishing House.)
Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible. W.E. Vine, edited by James A. Swanson,
John R. Kohlenberger III, and Multnomah Graphics. (1997, 1999) Thomas Nelson Publishers.
“Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible combines in one handy volume condensed
versions of W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Nelson’s
Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament by Merrill Unger and William White,
Jr. For the first time these popular works are blended into one continuous presentation,”
(publisher’s note from the foreword). P. 57.
[vii] 1 Samuel
20:42.(The Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Barker, Kenneth, General Editor (1999)
Zondervan Publishing House.)
[viii] 1 Samuel 18:14.(The
Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Barker, Kenneth, General Editor (1999) Zondervan Publishing
[ix] 1 Samuel 23:15-18. (The Zondervan NASB Study
Bible. Barker, Kenneth, General Editor (1999) Zondervan Publishing House.)
Hubble is the author of Lord
Given Lovers: The Holy Union of David & Jonathan. The author can be reached
at P.O. Box 18494, Denver, CO, 80218-0494 or LGLProject@msn.com.