Matthew 8:5-13

These verses describe how a Roman centurion asked Jesus to cure his pais who lay paralyzed and in great agony. The centurion stated that all Jesus had to do was to say the right words to effect the cure. Jesus praised the centurion for his faith. The Greek word pais contains the suggestion of a young male slave kept for sexual purposes by his owner. The English word "pederasty" comes from "pais". Various versions of the Christian Scriptures have suppressed the sexual component of the term and translated the word simply as a "servant boy", "serving boy", "young servant" and "my boy." A current relationship of this type would be considered child sexual abuse, a serious crime. However, such arrangements were common in the Roman Empire at the time, and were tolerated by society. It is worth noting that Jesus condemns neither the master-slave status, nor the same-sex relationship, nor the obvious abuse by an adult having sex with a minor.

The Gospel of Luke told a different story. The boy was changed into a slave of undefined age who was "dear to" (KJV) the Centurion. The author used the Greek word doulos which is a generic term for servant or slave, He was described as being very sick and near death; this contrasts with the author of Matthew who description of a boy being paralyzed and in great pain.

Romans 1:26-27

The King James Version translates these verses as:

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another, Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

The translators are showing their biases again. The Greek phrase para physin is commonly translated into the English word "unnatural". This is an error. Unnatural implies that the act is morally condemned. In Greek, the phrase really means "that which is beyond the ordinary and usual." "Unconventional" would be a good word to have used.

The preceding verses are important to consider:

  • Verse 23: The people being described had once been followers of God, but had fallen away from the faith. They made images of Pagan gods in the form of men, birds, animals and reptiles for their religious rituals, presumably in their temples.
  • Verse 24: Next, they engaged in [presumably heterosexual] sexual orgies with each other as part of these pagan rituals.
  • Verse 25: They worshipped the images that they had made, instead of God, the creator

Because of these forbidden practices, Verse 26 (above) explains how God intervened in these religious sex-rituals and changed the people’s behavior so that women started to engage in sexual activities with other women. Verse 27 describes how the men also engaged in same-sex ritual activities. They (presumably both the men and women) were then punished in some way for their "perversion."

There are a number of interpretations of the exact meaning of the word "perversion" in Verse 27, and "such things" in Verse 30. Paul may be referring to:

  1. all homosexual activities under all circumstances. This is the belief commonly followed by Conservative Christians
  2. all homosexual activities outside of a committed two person relationship; i.e. casual homosexual sex was forbidden, but monogamous gay and lesbian sex within a lifetime partnership was and is OK
  3. group homosexual practices which are engaged in by members of a congregation
  4. group sex practices (heterosexual or homosexual, during religious rituals. This was a common practice among Pagans at the time; e.g. in the temples dedicated to the Goddess Aphrodite)

Liberal Christians tend to interpret the passage as referring to options 2, 3 or 4. Some commentators interpret the passage quite differently:

  • In Greek and Roman society of the time, bisexuality was regarded as quite natural; people in some walks of society were expected to engage in bisexual relations. Since most of them were heterosexual, bisexual activity would be against their personal nature. A current example of this type of behavior is the practice by a few women at some women’s colleges to be "lugs" (Lesbians Until Graduation); they engage in same-sex activity because the university culture expects it of them. After they graduate, they revert to heterosexual behavior. This would be condemned because it is against their nature. One source (6) states

…God created each of us with a sexual orientation. To attempt to change it is, in effect, telling God that He created us wrong. The creation (us) does not have the right to "re-create" itself.

  • Some interpret the "men…with other men" clause to be a translation of the original Greek word for "pederasty" which was commonly practiced at the time by adult males with male children (often slaves). Thus Paul might have been criticizing child sexual abuse.

Traditionally, translators have carried their own beliefs about sexual orientation to this verse and interpreted the passage accordingly. The passage appears to be somewhat vague, and may not have been intended to be a blanket prohibition of same-sex activities.

I Corinthians 6:9

Paul lists a many activities that will prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God (heaven). We have studied this verse as it appears in 24 English versions of the Bible and found that two activities in Verse 9 have been variously translated as:

  • effeminate which covers a wide range of male behavior such as being unmanly, lacking virility, decadent, soft.
  • homosexuals, described as men who have sexual relations with other men, abusers of themselves with men, sodomites and perverts. Apparently, lesbians are not included in this condemnation.
  • male prostitutes, also described as men kept for unnatural purposes. It is not clear whether the term male prostitutes is restricted to homosexuals or may also include men who are heterosexual prostitutes.
  • catamites, also described as boy prostitute. This is a young male who is kept as a sexual partner of an adult male.

The original Greek text describes the second of the two behaviors as malakoi arsenokoitai. Malakoi means soft. It translated in both Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 as "soft" (KJV) or as "fine" (NIV) in references to clothing. The meaning of arsenokoitai has been lost. Some sources in the early Church interpreted the phrase as referring to people of soft morals; i.e. unethical. That may well be the correct meaning, because presumably people from that era would have still known the meaning of the word arsenokoitai. Others in the early Church thought that it meant "temple prostitutes" - people who engaged in ritual sex in Pagan temples. Still others thought that it meant "masturbators." At the time of Martin Luther, the latter meaning was universally used. But by the 20th century, masturbation had become a more generally accepted behavior. So, new translations abandoned references to masturbators and switched the attack to homosexuals. The last religious writing in English that interpreted 1 Corinthians 6:9 as referring to masturbation is believed to be the [Roman] Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967. Each translator seem to take whatever activity that their group particularly disapproves of at the time and inserts it into this verse. To compound their error, they have not the decency to indicate by a footnote that the meaning of the word is unknown. One can be certain that "aresenokoitai" has nothing to do with same-sex activity; much Greek homosexual erotic literature has survived from the early centuries CE; none of it contains the word.

The correct translation for the first behavior appears to be catamites, a boy or young male who engaged in sexual activities with men. A footnote to the New American Bible (3) reads:

The Greek word translated as "boy prostitutes" [in 1 Cor. 6:9] designated catamites, i.e. boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world….The term translated "practicing homosexuals" refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.

It would appear that the best guess translation for these two behaviors might be: "male child abusers and the boys that they sexually abuse". We agree with the Roman Catholic translators that the two behaviors probably relate to that small minority of male homosexuals who are child rapists and the male children that they sexually abuse. The verse has no relation to consentual sex between adults of the same gender.

1 Timothy 1:9-10

These verses also refer to malakoi arsenokoitai which has been variously translated as homosexuals, sexual perverts, etc. Again, the original meaning of the text as been lost, and the comment would appear to have no relationship to consentual homosexual sexual activity.

Jude 7

In the KJV, This refers to the people of Sodom as "giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh". "Strange flesh" has been variously translated in other versions as perverted sensuality, unnatural lust, lust of men for other men, and perversion. Again, it is unclear what is being referred to here. Some biblical scholars interpret this as relating to an ancient Jewish legend that the women of Sodom engaged in sexual intercourse with angels.