What does the Bible really say about homosexuality? Reading “texts of terror”

This is the first in a series of articles by The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New … Continued

This is the first in a series of articles by The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and a visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, D.C., examining the Biblical texts traditionally used to address the issue of homosexuality from a religious (Jewish and Christian) perspective. This first article is the philosophical basis for all that follows in examining the seven passages which are used to assert that God condemns homosexuality and homosexual practice. To borrow Phyllis Trible’s phrase, used to describe the Biblical texts employed to keep women “in their place,” these are the “texts of terror” used against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Let us be clear: people of good faith disagree, both on whether or not this method of “Bible study” is the “right” way of reading and interpreting scripture, and on its application to these texts. What is offered here is one way, and a particularly Anglican/Episcopalian way, of engaging in that endeavor.

[All Biblical texts are cited from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.]

Let’s begin. But before we begin with any one text, let us ask the most basic question of all: How are we to regard the Bible?

Be assured, I believe the Bible to be the Word of God – but not the “words” of God. That is, I do not believe that the Bible was dictated by God and written down by scribes of one sort or another, unmediated by the scribes’ own life experiences, culture, religious belief and context.

I believe that the Bible is many accounts, by many writers, over a thousand years time, of their experience of the Living God. Their accounts were heard (more often than read) as an experiential guide on how one accesses God (or how God accesses humankind) and discerns God’s will. The Bible is a collection of first-hand encounters with God, as experienced through the faithful (and sometimes unfaithful) people of God – from the Israelites in the Hebrew Scriptures (somewhat condescendingly referred to by Christians as the “Old” Testament) and the Christian scriptures of the early Church in the “New” Testament.

As such, it is the place we always begin. In reading these holy texts, we learn the ways that people of faith have historically come to know God and God’s will. They are enormously instructive, and over several millennia, these texts have served as a guide for pilgrims of faith in their encounters with the Living God.

Some of these texts are history, some are poetry. Some are fables and myths, meant to teach an important truth. Some are personal accounts of individuals, and some are communal accounts of a nation. All are set in a particular historical and cultural context. And context is the central key in understanding these texts, and the all-important task of determining whether the wisdom contained therein is applicable to all people for all time.

Dan Helminiac, in his book What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality (Alamo Square Press, 1994), offers a brilliant illustration about the importance of context:

It is important to pay attention to the different ways of reading a text, especially when dealing with ancient texts, like the Bible. The words might suggest one thing to us in the 21st Century but have meant something very different to the people who wrote them long ago.

Take an example from everyday life. In the United States we have an expression: to be out in left field. To understand this expression you have to know something about baseball. Areas of the baseball field are called center, right and left field, as viewed from the batter’s position. Most batters are right-handed. They swing from right to left. So they tend to hit the ball more often and more deeply into left field. When they do hit a ball into right field, the ball is not likely to go as far. So the player covering left field needs to be positioned far back in the field, far from the other players. In many ways the left fielder is isolated and out of touch, off in his or her own world. So to say that someone is “out in left field” means he or she is disoriented, out of contact with reality, wrong, unconventional, loony.

Now, what if you spoke perfectly good English but knew nothing of baseball or American usage and you heard that expression for the first time? “You’re wondering about Robert? He’s out in left field.” You might go out looking for Robert in a field somewhere off to the left! You understood the words, but you missed the point.

Of course, you could argue that the words mean what they say. You heard them, and you did understand them. They locate Robert in a field that is “left,” and “left” is a direction opposite “right.” After all, you do speak English! You could insist if you wanted, but everybody else would think you’re out in left field.

Baseball was really the big thing in the ’40s and ’50s. Other concerns have since shared the scene. So to make the same point in the ’60s and ’70s, you might have said, “You’re a real space cadet.” Today you might say, “You just don’t compute” or “You’re 404″ (from the World Wide Web error message, “404 Not Found”: the requested document could not be located).

Those sayings have nothing to do with real fields, space travel or computers, and they all make the same point. But ignore the culture in which they belong and you’ll miss the point despite understanding the words.

Much of the Biblical scholarship of the latter half of the 20th century has been concerned with understanding the contexts in which the Holy Scriptures of the Bible were written. Scholars have researched and discovered much about the culture, science, knowledge, biases, and pressing issues in the societies of the ancient world – both within the Hebrew and early Christian communities, as well as the hostile, threatening and pagan cultures which surrounded them. To go back to our analogy, scholars have been learning about the various games of “baseball” operative at the time the Holy Scriptures were written, with the purpose of better understanding the meaning of those words.

So, first and foremost, in reading texts from the Bible, we must ask, “What did these words mean to their author?” and “What did these words mean to the community for which they were written?” Once the context has been understood, then we ask the question, “Is the message of this text eternally binding on all people of faith, or, has something changed in the context between then and now, which renders this text ‘culturally bound’ and not applicable in the same way to our current situation, given the knowledge and understandings of the present time?”

Not even the strictest fundamentalist or Biblical literalist gives the same authority and moral weight to every word of scripture. Few of us would hold Paul’s injunction against women appearing in church with their heads uncovered to have the same moral weight as Jesus’ injunction to forgive our enemies. Few of us are willing to be bound by all the commands given to us in the Biblical text – otherwise, we would give all we have to the poor to follow Christ, redistribute all the land every 50 years, refuse to charge any interest on our loans/investments, share our worldly possessions communally as did the early Church, and refuse to support our nation’s defense budget in accord with Jesus’ commandment not to resist evil. We have come to understand certain things as acceptable in the Biblical culture and time, but not in our own – among other things, polygamy and slavery – which few Christians would promote despite their acceptability in Biblical times. As we approach the Biblical texts about homosexuality, we must not conveniently change our stance to one of asserting that every word of scripture is inerrantly true and universally binding on all people for all time.

Understanding scripture in its contexts is no easy task, and it is fraught with potential misuse. All readers of scripture are subject to self-deception – that is, the temptation to interpret the scriptures in a way that satisfies our own selfish desires and biases, rather than hearing the truth of the passage which may challenge, condemn and call into question those desires and biases. That is why scripture must always be studied and understood in community. The temptation is too great to interpret scripture in our own image to attempt it alone. One must always be subject to the larger community’s understandings to guard against only hearing what one wants to hear.

Part of the community whose voice needs to be considered, is that of the Tradition – that is, what has been said over the years about any given passage of scripture. We, in the present time, are not the only ones who have struggled with these passages, and our own understanding needs to be informed by the larger community of the faithful in the past.

And third, we need to use our own reason and experience in interpreting these scripture passages. Our knowledge of science, psychology, and modern scholarly understandings need to inform our approach to these passages. Our knowledge about common allusions in scripture – from leprosy to demon possession, from conception and birth to race and gender realities – will inform our interpretation based on new findings from the secular realm.

These considerations – scripture, tradition and reason – will be our method for looking at the seven scripture verses traditionally thought to be associated with the issue of homosexuality.

One final and important note: I do NOT believe that God stopped revealing God’s self with the closing of the canon (officially sanctioned as “holy” and official) of Scripture. Some would argue that God said everything God needed and wanted to say by the end of the first century of the Common Era (a less condescending way of referring to that time since the birth of Christ). They would posit a God who, when the scriptures were “finished” bid the world a fond farewell and went off to some beautiful part of God’s creation (the Bahamas, Patagonia, Nepal?!!), leaving us to our own devices, given that everything had been said that needed to be said. I don’t believe that.

In John’s Gospel, which is largely made up of the conversation Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus says: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16: 12-13a) I take this to mean that Jesus is saying to the disciples, “Look, for a bunch of uneducated and rough fishermen, you haven’t done too badly. In fact, you will do amazing things with the rest of your lives. But don’t think for a minute that God is done with you – or done with believers who will come after you. There is much more that God wants to teach you, but you cannot handle it right now. So, I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into that new Truth.”

The Church used scripture to justify slavery until the mid-nineteenth century, when the Church acknowledged that it had gotten this all wrong, and began to change itself and the culture into a more inclusive community. Was that not the Spirit leading us to a new truth about people of color? For centuries, and still to this day in some quarters, scripture has been used to denigrate and subjugate women. But many of us have come to know the error of those ways as we experience the gifts for ministry that women have been given. Is that not the Spirit leading the Church to say “we got it wrong” all these years?

And now, in these times, we are swept up in the holy chaos of asking, “Could we, people of faith, have been just as wrong about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people? Might it be the Holy Spirit leading us to a new truth about homosexuality? Do we have the courage to admit we were wrong all these years? Are we open to being led by the Spirit to a new place?

I believe we have been wrong. And I believe it is the Holy Spirit leading us to this new understanding. And yet, we have these seven “texts of terror” with which we must deal. We cannot sweep them aside merely because we don’t like them. We must understand them in their contexts and see if there is a faithful way forward, following the Spirit’s lead, in learning this new truth.

In the next article, we will take up the great granddaddy of all the homosexual “texts of terror” from Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Lev 18:22) and “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Lev 20:13)

  • Sajanas

    I enthusiastically support people looking at the Bible through the lens of history. its composition, authorship, and editing are quite fascinating, and when it is put its proper historical context, it makes a lot of sense, and in many ways, if find it to be almost heartrendingly sad. The Biblical encouragements for the Jews to have their own land lead them again and again to oppose tremendously strong empires that crushed them and scattered them. Jesus is one of many apocalyptic preachers, caught up and executed by authorities before his prophesied judgment could come to pass.But at the same token, I don’t think its fair to lay all the change our morals have experienced at the feet of the Bible. They came from people, who over time choice to ignore the proscriptions of thousands of years ago. There is nothing within the Bible itself that allows this interpretations. The law books of the Torah say explicitly not to pick and choose, and Jesus (in Matthew) wanted none of the old laws to be discarded. But we have to do this, since our understanding of the world is so much, much more than those of the Biblical authors. I’m grateful for any clergyman who tries to get us past this set-in-stone holy book fixation, and I think the best way is more teaching. The Bible is a very human book, and I think treating it as permanent, endless law is a terrible idea.

  • localgirl1

    i think that people should be the way they r if they like girls and they are girl

  • Secular

    All these books (scripture) are the product of the times may at most have had some relevance for that day. All of them are man made. Given the make up of humans in those days – steeped in ignorance and unimaginable superstition the end product is abhorrent by today’s standards. However, the historical crap-shoot of wars and conquest made the today’s religious terrain. Is there any doubt that if Babylonians were to have prevailed, wouldn’t the code of Hamurabi been our guiding text? Who in the right mind today give the religious terrain would advocate the code of Hamurabi as the guiding light? NONE. By the same token can anyone make a case for scripture as being superior to another in an intrinsic and objective manner? I bet no one can. Human beings started out being very narrow minded tribal societies. They were constantly struggling for their survival. All of the religious texts have that in common. This is reflected by the innumerable mentions of in-group nepotism and straight out out-group hostility. Today, even the most fundamentalist of the extremists flinch at the atrocities visited upon the enemy by their own protagonists. Case in point My Lai massacre, Carpet bombing and use of napalm in Vietnam war. There was ah uge outcry, even the staunchest supporters were forced to make excuses rather than justify it outright. In contrast, in the mythical story of Exodus, the deity is portrayed as very parochial, who visits upon civilian population of the so called enemy with unimaginable atrocities. As a matter of fact worse than what transpired in Vietnam. But those atrocities were expounded/glorified in the most self righteous terms. Then the deity does not give a rats ass for the well being of non-hebrew slaves. How is it that they did not deserve to have freedom? Isn’t freedom universal? The fact of the matter is, to the authors of the mythical Exodus story, it did not occur that it was very narrow minded and bigoted. That was their social awareness and lack of universal camaraderie. These texts are by today’s standards are vile, decrypt pieces of writings that we need to shed them on the dust heap of history. To find rationale for the universalism in those texts is a fools errand. The rationale can always be challenged and demolished on later date, even if we prevail today. So Mr. Robinson, you are on a fools errand. But then your profession itself is mastering the fine art of snake oil salesmanship.

  • Carstonio

    From Slacktivist:

  • thebump

    You don’t need Holy Scripture or any particular creed to understand the meaning and purpose of human sexuality.Sex matters. It accounts for the existence of the human race and every human person. And sex means sexes.Sad to say, Gene is one horribly confused old goat. He should repent and make amends to the poor wife he dumped.

  • Carstonio

    Sex matters. It accounts for the existence of the human race and every human person.That doesn’t mean that homosexuality is wrong. In fact, it doesn’t mean that non-procreative sex is wrong either. And your last paragraph makes no sense, as if Robinson turned gay after years of marriage. He mentioned nothing in his article about being gay or having been in a straight marriage.

  • areyousaying

    How convenient the “religious” cherry-pick their holy scriptures for their dogmatic convenience.

  • gladerunner

    “These considerations – scripture, tradition and reason “You nailed it… The Bible means whatever you and your friends agree that it means, as long as it ultimately means that that community’s prophets and priests can keep their jobs.

  • StewartIII

    NewsBusters| Lefty Voices in ‘On Faith’ Choir: Christmas ‘Tough Time’ for Abortion Rights Backers, Ants-on-Crucifix Video Not Blasphemous

  • GDWymer

    Everything Robinson has said here has made me more fully understand, as a former Christian and homosexual, why religion and especially the Bible is such a useless tool when trying to understand anything! Well done, Reverend. Christians, throughout the ages have perhaps become less intolerant in toto, but they’re still silly, mostly uneducated, and just look at the mess in the US, not much progress there either, arguably worse actually. BTW, Reverend, how’s the attendance at the Aglican/Episcopalian branch been. I think Papa’s stealing some of your flock, right?

  • david6

    How convenient the “religious” cherry-pick their holy scriptures for their dogmatic convenience.They always have. The difference today is that in nations that are predominately Christian, they have had their ability to force their cherry-picked religion taken away. Other nations will eventually free themselves from the yoke of religious oppression, too.

  • GiveMeThat

    The arrogant liberals: “We know so much better than all preceding generations.” Just look at the degradation of people that liberalization of sexual mores is causing. Go to a “Gay Pride” parade and see the devastation. Male and female sexuality are complementary. There are terrible societal as well as individual consequences for ignoring this.

  • eezmamata

    Male and female sexuality are complementary. There are terrible societal as well as individual consequences for ignoring this.

    So tell us, enumerate these consequences if you would, give to us your great wisdom on this issue, I mean don’t leave us hanging like that!

  • ThishowIseeit

    Rev. G Robinson, according to informations available, you fathered two children in the conventional way; this make you a bi-sexual. Any article that refer to homosexuality does not apply to you. Let research “bi-sexuality”.

  • eezmamata

    Well, there you are. Whenever you list all the murderous, hideous, even genocidal things their malevolent god demands of them – from their own bible! – NONE of them ever responds. None of them ever has anything to say.C’mon, christians, have the courage to actually believe your beliefs. Gather together at the next gay pride event in your town — or better yet, travel to one of the big city events, be sure to bring your stones. Lots of homos to stone to death, show your god that you really believe what he says in his word of god bs called your bible.

  • Carstonio

    Oh? Then what does it mean?It means that morality is based on the effects that one’s actions have on others. One can argue that non-procreative sex would be wrong if a society was experiencing a massive underpopulation crisis, such as in Battlestar Galactica. If one is going to deem homosexuality or non-procreative straight sex to be wrong, one needs a better reason than the fact that sex is how humans procreate. That’s like arguing that one should never use a flathead screwdriver to open a can of paint, or never use a cellphone screen as a makeshift flashlight.So tell us, enumerate these consequences if you would, give to us your great wisdom on this issue, I mean don’t leave us hanging like that!I wouldn’t take such a snarky tone myself, but like you I would like specifics for the claim of terrible individual and societal consequences.

  • eezmamata

    CARSTONIO, if such an environment were to exist, a single man could impregnate lots of women, with a dirty magazine and a plastic cup.Perhaps my tone was a bit snarky, I admit to that. But really, these people are demanding the right to enforce their religious beliefs on people who may not share them. I can’t imagine a more un- or anti-American thing to do, than to force other people to live their lives the way they want to.If they have a real complaint, if they demand the right to pass laws based on their complaint, then they must also provide evidence to support their claims. We are a nation of laws, no? Can they just enforce their religious beliefs on others without complaint from the freedom-loving America our ancestors and predecessor have given us?Snark for snark.

  • eezmamata

    This is America, we get to decide what to do with our own soul, we get to decide if such a ridiculous concept even exists, and for you to tell anybody else what to do with their own “soul” is the height of evil.

  • Carstonio

    The worst harm I can do to another person is to encourage or enable or lead that person to imperil his soul by obstinately engaging in sinful acts. That is precisely what Robinson does by publicly indulging his own foolish ignorance.Your argument assumes that Christian doctrine is factually accurate. If you expect everyone to refrain from “encouraging others to imperil their souls,” we’d like some evidence that souls even exist. I’m not saying that souls don’t exist, I’m simply questioning the assumptions involved. There are plenty of Christians who believe that their god cares much less about sexual orientation and much more about the relieving of suffering in this life.The other questionable assumption that being gay encourages or leads other people into being gay. Both homosexuality and heterosexuality are not just about acts, but about romantic and sexual attractions to the same gender or the opposite gender. A gay man would be gay, and a straight man would be straight, even if they never acted upon their attractions. The idea that homosexuality represents a temptation for straight people would be too ridiculous even for a Saturday Night Live skit.

  • areyousaying

    How does one become a “Right Reverend” anyway?Are there “Wrong Reverends”?

  • spidermean2

    Two roosters living together and raising chicks is not normal but ABNORMAL. Why would some people want to legalize things that are ABNORMAL?Pity the chicks. Much more, pity the children adopted by ABNORMALITY.

  • spidermean2

    We can’t allow ABNORMAL behaviors.We can’t allow people who decides to live on trees in the middle of the city and defecate everywhere he wishes.We can’t legalize ABNORMAL behaviors.

  • Sara121

    I agree context is important. I can understand how a small, ancient, tribal band would consider any romantic or sexual act that did not directly contribute, in the literal sense, to the future of the tribe – that is, children – to be, shall I say, troublesome. But modern society doesn’t live like that anymore. Despite the shrinking and aging populations in developed countries, humanity is not in danger of going extinct, and neither are any large subsets of the population. Allowing the minority of people who are gay to be gay is not going to change this. There is no more “threat of tribal extinction” anymore that there may have been thousands of years ago. With the threat gone, the prohibition that was the response to the threat ought to go away as well.

  • onofrio

    Areyousaying,Thee:Perhaps Gene Robinson might be more fittingly styled a “Left Reverend”. His opponents may prefer “Left Reverends are Wrong to Right Reverends, who are Wrong to Left Reverends, which proves that two Wrongs don’t make a Right. And further on that score: knoweth the Right hand what the Left hand doeth? Or the Left the Right? Left, Right, Left, Right is good for drill sergeants intent on mashing tyros, but not for the dispensation of charity, which requires agnostic hands. How dexterously sinister…Vivat ambidexterity.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    thebumpSamesex attraction is not immoral an is not unChristian. Hostility to gay people is an add-on to Christianity, and not a part of Christianity.If you choose to pursue and anti-gay agenda, you are perfectly free to do so, but please do not use the Lord’s name in vain to justify it, for it is certainly has nothing to do with Christianity.You are the one who needs to repent, not gay people.

  • onofrio

    Spidermean,Thee:If people decide to eat trees and are constrained to defecate at the wish of a mysterious pronoun, what’s it to you, O web-sh!+ter?

  • thebump

    @daniel: I’m afraid you’re quite confused about what most branches of Christianity actually believe and teach about the meaning and purpose of sex.

  • Carstonio

    But Robinson is talking about what a Christian should believe. The whole point of his argument is that Christians should consider same-sex conduct to be morally acceptable. If you reject Christianity in the first place, then this whole thread is moot.”Reject Christianity” wrongly implies that Christianity should be the norm, as if all members of other religions should be simply lumped into the generic category “non-Christians. And your earlier posts implied, at least to me, that everyone should be Christian and follow your interpretation of its teachings. (I’m waiting for someone to respond with, “Duh, it’s a proselytizing religon.”)To your other point, my statement about the harm done to the other person by leading them into sin pertains just as much to one who engages in fornication or adultery. I was not singling out those who engage in same-sex acts.You would have a point if Robinson was attempting to seduce a gay man against his will. But his speaking out on his position on homosexuality wouldn’t cause straight people listening to him to turn gay. Besides, the immorality of adultery lies not in the sex but in the betrayal and deception inherent in the act.

  • slowe111

    All of this about the Bible being the Word of God, or just inspired by God, or myths to teach truths are just so many contrivances to rescue an old book written by ignorant men. Yesterday’s religions are today’s myths. You can’t put lipstick on a pig. “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”. If there are valuable and contemporary lessons in the Bible, why hasn’t some christian group edited this book to remove all the no-longer-pertinent, or obsolete parts to produce a really good book that does not need to be ‘interpreted’ with such difficulty by thousands of support groups leaders every Sunday morning? WHY? Because it is considered sacred, – holy, – of God and not changeable by man! All excuses for the Bible are simply hypocrisy dressed up as academic obfuscation. A preacher s motto: confuse to convert.

  • slowe111

    It still baffles me why any gay or lesbian, or any woman for that matter, would choose to remain in a church or religion that condemns them and disrespects them? Religion and the churches are the very root and sustainer of sexism and homophobia. To remain a christian or muslim or jew or mormon, etc. is to enable and empower bigotry. As a gay man I say we must free ourselves of these ancient myths, invented by primitive humans and constantly proven wrong or evil by our progressive history. Wake up ! Grow UP!

  • GabrielRockman

    Slowe111 – do you mean to imply that atheistic countries like the USSR, North Korea, and China were/are not homophobic or sexist?The most progressive countries in the world in terms of sexual equality and gay rights have a Christian heritage and have evolved to become secular governments with a mostly Christian population.

  • FreetoThink

    How wise. How scholarly. What nonsense.Let’s start with what we want to believe about god and about how he wants us to behave. Then let’s read the bible and filter out everything that contradicts what we want to believe. We’ll call the filtering “understanding the context.” Guess what – the word of god turns out to be just what we want to believe!How foolish it is to examine ancient texts looking for guidance on homosexuality or any other subject. If there were a god that cared about how we behaved, he would tell us more clearly than the bible does.

  • gladerunner

    spidermean2:

  • slowe111

    GabrielRockman: The most progressive countries in the world in terms of sexual equality and gay rights have a Christian heritage and have evolved to become secular governments with a mostly Christian population.

  • Carstonio

    The difference between the USSR, North Korea, and China and “secular governments with a mostly Christian population” is mostly likely not about religion at all. Those three countries embody authoritarianism, which makes them similar to theocracies like Iran even though they disagree on theology. In fact, those countries simply instituted their own versions of authoritarian religions, elevating Stalin, Mao and the Kims to the status of gods.

  • garoth

    One of the battles in the church going on now is this whole matter of “context.” The right sees it as harmful – sinking into “relativism” and rendering the bible useless, and merely a reflection of our own desires and thoughts on any given issue. On the other hand, whether conservative or liberal, anyone who does serious biblical interpretation “contextualizes” its message. I know of no literalists who believe that all of the rules in Leviticus are applicable today, that Jesus’ parables were true stories about real people, or that the task of preaching is simply to explain what the bible is saying, void of any modern “context.” In fact, the task of preaching is exactly to open these texts to modern contexts, so that those who hear the message understandind their meaning, not void of any context, but as applicable to their own life.There are several contexts to consider when dealing with scripture: the historical context(s) in which it was written (sometimes “redactors” using older texts added or changed wording of the texts to fit their own context, as did those referred to as J,D,E, and P); the literary form (poetry, parable, history, etc.), its place in the piece of literature being written (what are the author’s purposes, and how does this fit into them? To whom was he writing? what does the rest of the piece say?), what does the whole of scripture say of this matter?; how would we frame the questions today? How is our situation alike/unlike the situation the author addresses? How might “modern” understandings alter our way of understanding this text? What are some of the strengths or weaknesses in our “modern” understandings that keep us from understanding what the biblical writer is saying? One thing that should be resisted, as we do this, is something shared in these comments – the tendency to think that “modern” is just another word for “better.” Sometimes it is; sometimes not. Sometimes the viewpoints of these biblical authors lead us to reexamine our own limited ways of thinking, for example, in “either/or” categories. Biblical language is also very different from English – less scientific and logical, but more provocative – a root word may be placed with another word, given different endings, and a new word, incorporating concepts both old and new, is created. “Non-scientific” insights (such as the idea of “insight,” deriving from the idea of sight as actually coming from within oneself, rather than from outside – a novel but important idea!) can lead to new/old understandings of life.Thank you again, for an excellent article!

  • rexreddy

    from Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Lev 18:22) and “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Lev 20:13) A: Let he who is among you that is without sin cast the first stone!Killing Gays is wrong. (teaching them to swim..is….. :)

  • lokken

    As a cradle Episcopalian who appreciates the beauty and structure of the church and the liturgy,(ie; titles like “right reverend”)but who is also very much of a “universalist”, I really appreciate Bp. Robinson’s words, esp. in the You Tube video. I think debating the efficacy of the Bible or Christianity in general was not his point. I think he is reaching out to gay folk who are still being condemned by ignorance. They are still being diminished by people in Christendom. The message, I think, is for gay people who DO identify themselves as Christians, or still want to.

  • charlessnowden

    I have one question: If the two great commandments that Jesus has told us to follow are to love God and to love our fellow man, how can either a strict or liberal interpretation of those words lead on to believe that homosexuality is wrong?

  • nst101

    One thing that I have always taken into consideration is that Biblical text was first passed orally, then written and translated through many languages to get to its current form. Each time it passed through another person, they took their own view on what was being said and used that to create the new oral or written version. Some might have incorrectly heard what the teller said, or some could have misunderstood a word during translation.This is similar to what happens when one plays the child’s game of “Phone” or when one uses translation software to translate a phrase through many different languages. What comes out in the end is often very different than what was said in the first place.Because of this, we have to try to look for the meaning behind the words. The words can get in the way and make this very difficult, but I think that it can be done.

  • mackharrell

    I can’t wait for the next in the series!Two comments:(1) Bp. Robinson is careful to eschew the so-called “dictation theory” of inspiration. But neither has any supporter of what B. B. Warfield called “the Church doctrine of Scripture” ever taught the “dictation theory” of inspiration.(2) Bp. Robinson asks, ““Is the message of this text eternally binding on all people of faith, or, has something changed in the context between then and now, which renders this text ‘culturally bound’ and not applicable in the same way to our current situation, given the knowledge and understandings of the present time?” He then points to several well-discussed examples in which it was once thought that scripture required A, whereas we now believe that scripture does not require A at all. Nor would any orthodox theologian would say otherwise. The question, however, is this: How are we to determine what changes are allowed to count as the change which now renders a text culturally bound? One wants to be very careful here, I believe. Still, I anticipate with relish Bishop Robinson’s next offering here!

  • detroitblkmale30

    So basically, in Robinson’s view, the Bible is a collection of stories passed down with some divine inspiration and then edited and revised by everyone whose hand it passed through. Why read it at all then? Let’s just put it up there with the Illiad. At least here we understand the rub. If you beleive that it was more a collection of oral history than divinely inspired writings from God to man that have some changes over time, but still maintain the main “gist” of God’s intentions,then everything and nothing really hold any permanent sway. Depending on your philosophical leanings,just about anything could be justified because there is no ONE correct context. One can simply pick any of the contexts of the Bible’s many editor’s over the centuries and apply a guestimation of their “intent” to explain the “meaning” of scripture.this basically turns the Bible into something akin to a combination of the Odyssey and Aesop’s Fables.In any event, one thing is clear, the debate is NOT over whether homosexuality is a sin, its basically over how one reads the Bible if one reads it literally within its ORIGINAL context as I do numerous scriptures are unequivocable in their meaning, no matter how many layers are peeled away from them. If one reads it as Robinson does, nothing is literal, everything is contextual, suggestive, and adaptable.It’s sad, but perhaps inevitable, and actually predicted in God’s word that the Bible can be interepreted in the “new” ways it is being seen now. Another sign of the times or rather “end times.”

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