Excerpts from Anglican Canon Charles Gore, Dissertations on Subjects Connected with the Incarnation (London: John Murray, 1895), pages 171-2, 173.
The earlier mediaeval and scholastic method appears to put the dogmas of the Church in a wrong place. The dogmas are primarily intended as limits of ecclesiastical thought rather than as its premises: they are the hedge rather than the pasture-ground: they block us off from lines of error rather than edify us in the truth. By them we are warned that Christ is no inferior being but very God; and that He became at His Incarnation completely man, not in body only but in mind and spirit; . . . But thus warned off from cardinal errors, we are sent back to the New Testament, especially to the Gospels, to edify ourselves in the positive conception of what the Incarnation really meant. To Irenaeus, to Origen, to Athanasius, the New Testament is the real pasture-ground of the soul, and the function of the Church is conceived to be to keep men to it. But after a time there comes a change. The dogmas are used as the positive premises of thought. The truth about Christ’s person is formed deductively and logically from the dogmas whether decrees of councils or popes, or sayings of great fathers which are ranked as authoritative and the figure in the Gospels grows dim in the background. Particular texts from the Gospels which seem contrary to current ecclesiastical teaching are quoted and requoted, but though, taken together, they might have availed to restore a more historical image of the divine person incarnate, in fact they are taken one by one and explained away with an ingenuity which excites in equal degrees our admiration of the logical skill of the disputant and our sense of the lamentably low ebb at which the true and continuous interpretation of the Gospel documents obviously lies.
. . . .
. . . Greek philosophy was primarily concerned to conceive of God metaphysically. He was the One in opposition to the many objects of sense, and the Absolute and Unchangeable in opposition to the relative and mutable. In particular the divine immutability had a meaning assigned to it very different from that which belongs to it in the Bible, a meaning determined by contrast, not to the changeableness of human purpose, but to the very idea of motion which, as belonging to the material, was also supposed to be of the nature of the evil. There is no doubt that this Greek metaphysical conception of God influenced Christian theology largely and not only for good. In particular, through the medium of Neo-Platonism, it deeply coloured the thought of that remarkable and anonymous author who, writing about A.D. 500, passed himself off, probably without any intention to deceive, as Dionysius the Areopagite, the convert of St. Paul. With him the metaphysical conceptions of the transcendence, incomprehensibility, absolute unity and immutability of God are a master passion. In his general philosophy the result of his zeal for the One is to lead him to ascribe to the manifold life of the universe only a precarious reality. In his view of the Incarnation it produces at least a monophysite [sort of Unitarian or Monarchian] tendency.
Passages quoted from William Fairweather, Origen and Greek Patristic Theology (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901).
The situation of the Alexandrian Christians was thus in many respects unique. They witnessed the fragments of the old systems gathered together to produce, through the introduction of Platonic ideas, a revived and spiritualised paganism in opposition to Christianity, for the ushering in of Neoplatonism by Ammonius [Saccas] constituted the last prop of the old world. If, however, we think to find in the writings of the Alexandrian teachers a systematic refutation of Neoplatonism in its various principles, we shall be disappointed. So, too, if we look for a definite position against Christianity in the works of Platonists. Neither system was as yet sufficiently developed to admit of this. But there was between the two systems an essential difference at bottom, and the real conflict for the Church lay in its being forced very much to leave its own standpoint and adopt that of its opponents. To combat Platonism it must needs accommodate itself to philosophy, and in submitting to this it became fettered with philosophical adjuncts to a dangerously suicidal extent. . . . . That errors, mystical, speculative, allegorical, and pagan, began to choke it like so many weeds, is clear from the works of the men who, from their position as prefects of the Catechetical School, necessarily became apologists for Christianity. All of them were more or less tinctured with Platonic views. They were themselves philosophers, and so could sympathise with their opponents, whose error they were disposed to view rather as one of defect than as a total perversion of truth. In this way they were led to overestimate the similarity between pagan and Christian wisdom. Prior to the latter part of the second century Christian teaching, with very few exceptions, had been true to apostolic example; but after philosophers embraced Christianity, and the new Platonism, which allied itself to Orientalism, began to exert its influence, the case was altered. The intellectual was frequently represented as the chief or only side of Christianity to be attended to; it was regarded not so much as a rule of life as a speculative scheme of doctrine. From this the transition was easy to “mysteries” similar to those of heathenism. Certain views were kept secret as a higher species of doctrine suitable only for the cultivated few. An attempt was made, in short, to provide the gospel with a philosophy, and to resolve it into such a system as philosophers would embrace.
Nor is the explanation of all this far to seek. It may at first sight seem strange that Christian teachers could embrace doctrines known to be Platonic, but we must recollect that these same doctrines were supposed to have been borrowed from Holy Scripture, which they believed to be the revelation of God’s wisdom to men. Speculative theologians, moreover, have always been influenced by contemporary philosophy, and these Alexandrian Fathers only sought to express the doctrines of the faith in a form adapted to the spirit of the times. Men like Justin and Clement had themselves passed over from heathen philosophy, and naturally carried with them much of its influence; but they had nevertheless an ardent desire to see Christian truth in its right place. . . . . After all, the Alexandrian Fathers “did not exchange the gospel for Ncoplatonism.” They resolutely maintained the supreme authority of Holy Scripture; and with whatever distortions and incongruities it may have been associated, the assertion of this principle of an objective rule of faith was in itself of the utmost value in combating a philosophy of which the only standard lay in the subjective notions of its advocates.
By the light which it threw upon the great problems raised by philosophy regarding God, the world, and the human soul, Christianity had awakened the dormant spiritual sense in vast multitudes of men. But in the matter of satisfying the spiritual needs of humanity it found a rival claimant in Neoplatonism, which took for its religious ideal the direct apprehension of the divine essence. Thus, it was believed, would the traditional worship receive a new impetus, and the desideratum, for want of which men were seceding to Christianity, be supplied. The promoters of Neoplatonism saw that if heathenism was to prevail, it must both get rid of its more glaring absurdities, and also strengthen itself by a large accession of ideas, principles, and rites. Thus they borrowed whatever appeared to them good from every available source. They contemplated nothing less than the introduction of a universal religion, constructed on principles so broad that the wise of all the earth could adhere to it. It was their aim to set matters right between philosophy and theology, between doctrine and life, and to satisfy the needs of the soul on a scale to which Christianity could make no pretension.
Origen finds his ruling principle of interpretation in Prov. xxii. 20 (LXX), and in an analogy between the Platonic doctrine of the constitution of man and Scripture, which has been given for man’s salvation. As man is of a tripartite nature, consisting of body, soul, and spirit, so also does Scripture possess a threefold sense—the literal, the moral, and the spiritual.
What led Origen thus to repudiate tlie literal sense of so many passages of Scripture? In general, it may be said that his Platonic spiritualism, his attachment to the Alexandrian idea of gnosis, and his extravagant conception of inspiration already predisposed him in favour of a mystical exegesis.
The character of Origen’s theological system as a philosophy of revelation accounts for the Gnostic and Neoplatonic features mixed up with it. His speculations often recall the theosophic dreams and fantastic cosmology of Valentinus, and his methods are those of that prominent heresiarch, and of the Neoplatonic schools. In his doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, in his theory of a threefold division of human nature, and in his highly symbolic interpretation of the story of Paradise, his Christian theology clearly shows affinity with those systems. The agreement, however, is not in principle, but is due to the adoption in common of particular Platonic tenets. He is even more of an idealistic philosopher than Plato himself.
(pp. 92 f.)
The moral and religious ideal set forth in the system of Origen is one which has its roots partly in Neoplatonic mysticism and partly in Holy Scripture. It had long been a favourite theory with idealistic philosophers that the most perfect life open to man is that which consists solely in meditative introspection and contemplation of the eternal. According to this view actions have the effect of entangling us in all manner of worldly concerns, and therefore it is better for us not to act, but just to remain absorbed in the absolute and the unseen, and in the possession of a calm tranquility which more than anything else tends to make us godlike. To have need of nothing is to be in closest contact with the Deity; to overcome the sensuous, and to live in the habitual contemplation of the invisible, is to attain at length the final aim of existence in ecstatic union with God. This is the view of life that prompted the ancient hermits to withdraw from the world and take to their cells, and it is this that has laid the foundation of the monastic system wherever it has been practised. Whether, however, this abandonment of the active for the contemplative life is in harmony with the truo genius of Christianity may well be doubted; its note is not that of an isolated self-sufficiency, but that of a yearning aspiration after righteousness. In the Alexandrian Fathers we see the union of both tendencies.
Both [Origen and Celsus] were Platonists, but with a difference.
Indeed the tide [of Origenism], instead of flowing, began to ebb, and after the time of Theognostus its adherents were obliged to assume the defensive. Partly this was due to the rival attractions of Neoplatonism, which at the commencement of the fourth century became the prevailing philosophy in Christian as well as in pagan circles, and partly to the circumstance that the Church was wholly engrossed with debates upon one particular subject—that of the Trinity, and could not give a thought to the elaborate philosophy of Origenism.
Enough has been said to show that Origen’s influence upon succeeding ages was by no means commensurate with the boldness and grandeur of his system. This may be accounted for in several ways. For one thing it was not “compactly built together”; through its looseness and discursiveness it was at a disadvantage as compared with the more firmly welded Neoplatonism of Plotinus.
Not until the ninth century did any gleam of his influence appear; and if three centuries later it manifested itself with greater strength in the pages of Duns Scotus, it was overlaid and virtually stifled with Neoplatonic mysticism drawn from the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.
Excerpt from Hugh M. Scott, Origin and Development of the Nicene Theology: With Some Reference to the Ritschlian View of Theology and History of Doctrine (Chicago Theological Seminary Press, 1896), pp. 250 f.
The loss of the gospel conception of personal, living union throughout life of the believer with the exalted Christ was followed inevitably by the wrong soteriology of the early Church: (1) Because He was not felt to be the head of every Christian man and every congregation, bishops and other heads arose. (2) Because direct personal communion with Him was obscured, the Church and the Sacraments came in between the soul and the Saviour, thus not only bringing in a hierarchy but perverting the whole conception of man’s relation to Christ. (3) Because constant, direct approach to Christ was lost, a thousand indirect approaches by washings, fastings, visions, ascetic practices, confessions, came into use. (4) Because the witness of Christ by His Spirit in the heart was largely overlooked, too much stress was laid upon intellectual forms of faith, philosophical proofs of Christianity, and theological creeds. (5) This loss of the present Christ in the midst of the worshiping congregation was followed by a more formal worship, in which liturgies, elaborate ceremonies, and theological statements, too much took the place of the free charismatic prayers and teachings of the primitive Church. (6) In life also, as the thought was obscured that Christ dwells in each believer, a loss of holiness followed. To have the rules of the Church, to follow her discipline, was a lower standard than to “have the mind of Christ.” From the individual this view spread to the Church. For the New Testament, believers were a temple of God; for Callixtus, the Church was the ark of Noah, full of both clean and unclean creatures. (7) Finally, this loss of Christ as King in each Christian changed the whole missionary character of the Church. Instead of all preaching — let him that heareth say, come” — the clergy preached and the laity listened; or monks went out, spreading their defective views of Christianity.
See also “Pagan Origins of Sacramental Realism, Part 2” by the author.
Sacramental Realism is a dogma which cannot be established from Scripture; in fact, is baldly in opposition to the New Testament presentation of spiritual efficacy, not through ritual act, nor through priestly mediation, but through receipt of Holy Spirit Baptism, as at Pentecost and continuing thereafter. Sacramentalists point to the wedding at Cana (John 2) and the miraculous multiplication of loaves associated with the Sermon on the Mount (John 6). But significantly there was no bread at Cana, no wine included on the Mount, no ceremonial act taking place at either location, no “institution” of a ritual or sacrament, nor connection with spiritual efficacy; moreover, all of these events took place prior to the Last Supper and to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
In fact, Christ’s statements in John 6 strikingly contradict the concept of spiritual efficacy in bread. Crowds continued to follow him for days after the miracle, asking him for more “bread from heaven,” by which they meant manna. Jesus reminded them, “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and are dead” (6:58). No physical bread, even “from heaven,” is truly spiritual or eternal, and neither God’s presence, nor blessing, nor salvation are inherently associated with it.
The “breaking of bread from house to house” mentioned in Acts cannot be proven to describe any ceremony, but simple “table fellowship” common to both Jews and Gentiles. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 describes the confusion in Corinth of a fellowship meal with the Lord’s Supper, the former having degenerated into self-indulgent feasting on the part of some, devoid of true fellowship, and the latter similarly failing to include the responsibility of the believer to remember and identify himself with Christ’s sacrifice by “examining himself” in that light (see also 2 Cor. 13:5). He writes,
1 Corinthians 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? ….
The idea of Sacramentalism is absent in Church history until it began to be developed by Cyprian (early 3rd century) and Athanasius (3rd-4th century), along with Sacerdotalism. The Didache (dated late 1st century) includes a recitation of the Eucharist ceremony of the time, which notably does not include any form of sacrament. Nor does the famous letter by Pliny to Emperor Trajan mention a sacrament, rather a fellowship meal afterward, in another location. Irenaeus and Tertullian spoke in seemingly realistic terms of the Communion elements relative to the body of Christ, but were actually contrasting the reality of Christ’s crucifixion, and his physical body, to the Docetism (denial of a physical Incarnation of Christ) of the Gnostics whom they opposed.
Yet committed Sacramentalists—if there be any other kind—just like Martin Luther, insist on a literal interpretation of “Take, eat, this is my body” at all costs. The passages in question are these:
Mark 14:22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you
1 Corinthians 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.
Note, among other details, that in two of the passages, Jesus specifically describes the purpose of the action to be “in remembrance of me” (in bold above); and further, that only in those same passages is it implied that the ceremony is to be repeated. Since the Last Supper is clearly a reflection of the Passover ceremony, with many parallels, the natural inference of the ceremony itself must be that it is to replace traditional observance of the Passover memorial, which is once a year. Yet there is no restriction of frequency stated, and it is commonly considered that new Christians in their enthusiasm soon began to gladly practice the observance of the Lord’s Supper, often, perhaps even before every meal (as Jews blessed their bread and many of us to this day say “Grace”). In the case of frequent and even casual observance, however, the act could hardly be imagined to have been officiated over by a priest and to have any salvific spiritual efficacy, as sacramentalists imagine.
Still sacramentalists insist on taking the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper literally as Christ’s body and blood, representing the “institution” of a sacrament, and being continually “for the remission of sins”—instead of being the afore-mentioned “remembrance,” and allowing the elements to be used figuratively to point to a greater, eschatological reality, which was yet to be fully realized, in Christ’s actual death on the cross for our sins.
There are many instances of figurative language in the New Testament and in Christ’s sayings. In the famous “I am” sayings, Jesus describes himself figuratively as the voice, the Light of the World, the door, the good shepherd, the road or path, and the vine, as well as the Bread of Life. There is none but arbitrary, dogmatic reasons to take “This is my body” any more literally than these statements.
In conclusion, let us examine an even closer, figurative parallel. Just as Jesus said, “Take, eat,” he elsewhere commanded, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24; par. Mark 8:34, 10:21; Luke 9:23). With the exception of a few ascetic fanatics in Church history, few have imagined that Jesus meant us to regard “Take up your cross” literally, as opposed to figuratively, by which it represents a greater reality—which certainly begs the question of the arbitrary insistence of sacramentalists upon taking with supreme literalness this one particular and debatable instance.
Copyright © 2015 Paul A. Hughes
I suppose I could very well update this again, 2015, and add something about the Supreme Court ratifying Homosexual “Marriage,” and Liberals seeking to purge the country of Ten Commandments displays, Confederate flags, and white Southern heroes, which amounts to “book-burning.”
by Paul A. Hughes
Inspired by the famous warning by Martin Niemöller.*
In America, they first created the Welfare State and “Entitlements” — including Social Security, which they promised would be “temporary” — which have created generations of dependent masses. But I didn’t speak up, because I wanted government benefits and security, too.
Then they created special government programs and rendered court decisions favoring select minorities, setting quotas and giving them advantages in education and jobs. Then they added de facto amnesty for illegal aliens, who do not pay income tax and who use public services and unpaid medical care disproportionately. But I didn’t speak up, because I didn’t want to be called a racist.
Then they declared that women were discriminated against because of childbearing, that a baby was “part of the mother” until delivery, and that a woman had the “choice” to abort her baby for any reason…
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An Internet search on this subject reveals that widespread disinformation about what the Bible actually says is being disseminated by advocates, most often non-experts, such that an unbiased exegetical review is made necessary.
God’s Intent in Creation
From the start, Scripture describes God’s intent in terms of procreation, in which not only humans but animals naturally pair up, male with female.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Natural Pairing Continued for Procreation
As Noah received commandments regarding the Ark, species or “families” (“kind”), including humans, were still perceived in terms of complementary pairs of animals, one of each gender, able to produce offspring.
Genesis 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
Genesis 7:15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.
Christ’s Teaching on God’s Original Intent for Marriage
In speaking of marriage and divorce, Jesus framed the subject in terms of God’s original intent: one man and one woman, for life.
Matthew 19:3 (parallel Mark 10:2-9.) The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Sexual Conduct Established by Law
The Law of Moses codified acceptable behavior in order to establish God’s people as a Godly nation, his representatives among Pagans, outlining rules of conduct and punishments for transgressions. Some of the most grievous infractions included sorcery, necromancy, adultery, prostitution, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. Scholars theorize that male homosexual prostitutes were sometimes referred to as “dogs,” possibly including Revelation 22:15 and Philippians 3:2 (which obviously do not refer literally to canines).
Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. 23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. 24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) 28 That the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations that were before you. 29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 20:13 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.
Deuteronomy 23:17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. 18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
Revelation 22:15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Philippians 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
Sexual Conduct Laws Periodically Enforced and Idolatry Banished
Homosexuality recurred within Israel in spite of the Law, due to lax enforcement and the outside influence of Pagan peoples, sometimes prompting reforming kings of Israel to crack down on this behavior.
1 Kings 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
1 Kings 15:12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
2 Kings 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove [Pagan shrine].
Two Notorious Instances of Intended Homosexual Rape and Their Outcome
Neither of these attempts were successful, as such, the first averted by divine intervention, the second unfortunately leading to a woman’s death so brutal that the offending tribe, Benjamin, was nearly annihilated by the other tribes in retribution. (It is hard today to understand how the laws of the time regarding hospitality could be so compelling that a householder would protect a guest even at the expense of his own womenfolk, but such seems to be the case.) The Hebrew term “know” (YADA) is used not only in terms of cognizance but also to describe intimate relations, e.g., “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived . . .” (Genesis 4:1).
Genesis 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.
Judges 19:22 Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. 27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered.
Sodom and Gomorrah became a Byword for Sexual Sin and Its Judgment
More than that, comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah became a metaphor for any place whose people are deserving of God’s especial wrath (the list below is not exhaustive).
Isaiah 13:19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
Jeremiah 23:14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
2 Peter 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;
According to Jesus, Sodom and Gomorrah Have but One Mitigating Virtue
Since those cities and certain others had not known God, heard the Gospel, or received God’s witness, their punishment would not be as great as those who hear the Gospel and still reject Jesus Christ.
Matthew 10:14 (par. Mark 6:11) And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Luke 10:12 (par. Matthew 11:23-24) But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. 13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. 15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. 16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
“They Are without Excuse,” Romans 1:26-32
Paul the Apostle was born in Tarsus of Cilicia and traveled widely in the Greco-Roman world, hence was well-versed in the activities of Pagan cultures and uniquely qualfied to evaluate them. Here Paul clearly singles out Lesbianism as well as male Homosexuality as behaviors for which “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Rom 1:18), and for which, since “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made . . . they are without excuse” (1:20).
Romans 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Persons Involved in Certain Behaviors “Shall Not Inherit the Kingdom,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
The words that are challenged by advocates are “effeminate” (fr. μαλακός, malakos) and “abusers of themselves with mankind” (fr. ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoitēs).
1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The advocates are correct that malakos means “soft” and does not always refer to persons. In Matthew 11:8 (par. Luke 7:25), Jesus asks rhetorically in regard to John the Baptist, “What went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” and indeed malakos is used of things such as clothing that are delicate or “dainty.” Here Jesus expresses irony, since John was known to have worn camel’s hair and a leather belt, a marked contrast to dainty clothing.
So far, one might surmise that Paul is saying that people who wear delicate clothing are sinners. But in contemporary literature, as well as Paul’s usage, “dainty” becomes a substantive for persons who dress in a feminized manner, and in fact it is the term of choice for men who take on the feminized, passive, submissive role in a homosexual encounter or relationship (also a catamite or “beloved” in a pederastic relationship). Any doubt that such is the case is dispelled by the word that follows.
Arsenokoitēs is, according to Bauer’s Lexicon and other sources, a compound of arsēn, “male,” and koitē, “bed.” In addition to the obvious connotation of the combination of these terms, in contemporary Greek as in modern English, a reference to “bed” served as a euphemism for sexual activity. It was the arsenokoitēs who undertook the active or dominant role in the homosexual act. Polycarp (A.D. 80–167) echoed Paul’s sentiments in the same words, saying,
Polycarp 5:3 …. For it is a good thing to refrain from lusts in the world, for every lust warreth against the Spirit, and neither whoremongers nor effeminate persons nor defilers of themselves with men shall inherit the kingdom of God, neither they that do untoward things. ….
“Such Were Some of You”
Paul reminds the Corinthians that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11), until their repentance and conversion, having afterward laid aside participation in all such activities. While it remains that “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) and “the recompense of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), Jesus ushered in a new era of grace and deferred (rather than immediate and final) judgment for sin. In John 8:3 ff., Jesus forced those who had arrested a woman caught in the act of adultery, intent on her execution, to acknowledge that they had all sinned and needed grace themselves. In Matthew 5:27 ff. he asserted that entertaining sinful thoughts makes people as guilty as following through with sinful acts; or more specifically, a man who lusted after a woman had “already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Hence one concludes, first, that everyone is tempted, which is not in itself a sin, but one must “flee” from it (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22) rather than entertaining it; and second, that conquering temptation through faith, with a will, anyone can be saved and restored to communion with God. Jesus bestowed forgiveness upon the adulterous woman for past sins, but admonished her to “Go, and sin no more.” Likewise, Jesus told a certain man, “Sin no more, lest something worse come upon you” (John 5:14).
John 8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Matthew 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Law Is Necessary for the Lawless, 1 Timothy 1:9-10
Arsenokoitēs appears again as “them that defile themselves with mankind,” situated just after pornē (“whoremonger,” “fornicator”).
1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
Parallel Lists of Condemned Activities
Paul provides other parallel lists of grievous sins to be abandoned, but which do not include the specific terms for homosexual activity described above. Note that all sexual activity outside the bounds of lawful matrimony is classed as adultery, fornication, or some more specific variation.
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Ephesians 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Copyright © 2015 Paul A. Hughes
Here is a song on my Bible Ministry and Music site, written to the tune of a well-known classical piece.
(To the tune “Le Cygne” [“The Swan”] by Camille Saint-Saëns.)
My life was empty until the day
You came and drove my sorrows all away.
Years spent on finding a better way;
I wound up lost and broken on that day.
I was so lonely and filled with sin,
I found no peace till You took me in.
Though all of life I had tasted,
All of my life had been wasted.
You took my hand and You picked me up,
Gave me the strength to find my way back home.
Now I have everything,
Living with Jesus forever and forevermore.
Copyright © 2006 Paul A. Hughes