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Topics: Book Reviews, Homosexuality

Genesis 19, Sodom, and Homosexuality – An Excerpt from God and the Gay Christian

April 24, 2014


Many scholars and authors have posited that the true sin of Sodom was not homosexuality but violence, arrogance, oppression, and inhospitality. Certainly the men of Sodom were guilty of these sins and the Bible indicates that this was so. But does the Bible nowhere indicate that homosexuality was one of the sins of the men of Sodom? Professor James Hamilton in his chapter responding to Matthew Vines’ new book God and the Gay Christian, confronts this common argument with evidence that the Bible also identifies homosexuality as one of Sodom’s sins. He writes:

“Vines suggests that Philo was the first to interpret the  sin of Sodom as a same-sex violation. He argues that later biblical authors only speak of inhospitality and violence, arrogance and oppression when referencing Sodom. Vines also writes that the gang-rape intended by the Sodomites cannot be compared with the kind of committed, consensual same-sex marriage relationship he advocates. Rape is obviously a violation of what God intended, but that does not mean that the same-sex aspect of Sodom’s sin was not also a violation of God’s intention.

As for later Old Testament interpretation of Sodom’s sin, Vines fails to notice — or chooses not to address — a significant connection between Genesis 19, the two passages in Leviticus and Ezekiel 16:48–50. Ezekiel, who makes abundant use of the book of Leviticus, describes various sins of Sodom (Ezek 16:48–49), then concludes, “They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it” (16:50). This indicates that the “abomination” committed by Sodom led to their destruction. Ezekiel’s reference to Sodom’s “abomination” uses the singular form of the term toevah, and that term is used in the singular only twice in the book of Leviticus, when same-sex intercourse is called an abomination in 18:22, and when the death penalty is prescribed for it in 20:13. The four other instances of the term in Leviticus are in the plural, making it likely that Ezekiel uses the term from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to reference the same-sex intentions of the men of Sodom.

Jude also speaks of “sexual immorality” and the Sodomites’ pursuit of “strange flesh” (Jude 7). Vines tries to explain away this mention of “strange flesh” as referring “to the attempted rape of angels instead of humans” (69). But the Genesis narrative refers to the angels as “men”(Gen18:22), and that is how the inhabitants of Sodom designate them as well (19:5). For those who adopt the sexual complementarity taught in the Bible, the violation of the order of creation at Sodom is an abomination (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Ezek 16:50). That abomination is only intensified by the angelic identity of the men the Sodomites intend to abuse. 2 Peter 2:6–10 also treats the sin of Sodom as sexual immorality rather than as oppression, violence, a failure of hospitality or some other kind of sin. (James Hamilton, “How to Condone What the Bible Condemns: Matthew Vines Takes on the Old Testament,” in God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, 34-36).

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