Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is Being Gay A Sin? Part Two - Sodom And Gomorrah

Is Being Gay A Sin?
Part Two - The Story of Sodom And Gomorrah

Welcome to the second installment of my blog series on "Is Being Gay A Sin?"
If you've not read Part One - Why and Introduction, please do so. It'll make the reading more clear and provide a foundation for review of scriptures, translations, and context.

Genesis 19:5: "Bring them out to us that we may know them."
Now, according to my research and anything I have read, this is the very first scripture that points toward homosexuality. No, seriously. And then, of course, the rest of the story shows that fire comes down, destroys a city, and turns one woman to salt because she dared to even look back. That’s the fairy tale Sunday school version, anyway. In reality, it’s kind of gruesome, no matter what side of the fence you are on. On the flip side of that coin, we need to take a closer look at some of the real issues presented in the very first book of the Bible. Seriously??? Fire from heaven? God chose to kill an entire little city? Entire cities destroyed? Even the women and children and animals? Cute little dogs and cats? Ladies turned to salt? Just for looking? That sounds like a bunch of foolishness and mayhem. And it was. But WHY did it happen, Reader? There had to be more than just a mob mentality of hurting angels and God's displeasure, right?

There are liberals that debate that the word “know” is simply “to know”; that no hint at homosexuality exists in the original Hebrew.  And technically, literally, they would be correct. It is true that the original language in later Bible references to Sodom never mention homosexuality as the sin of Sodom. Actually, many modern translations add words to the text to create the lie that the people of Sodom were homosexual.

So, what’s the big deal with this word, “know”? Adam apparently “knew” Eve, and ever since the Bible was translated into the Kings English, we have been using some form of this work to describe sex. Right? Well, yeah… I mean, we have. I can see why the conservative right would think that if it says it in early Genesis, then why not the same thing 19 chapters later?   Well, Hebrew is funny. And like any translation (try conjugating Spanish and French for a few semesters), you have to know the context, the word used, and how it was translated into something you read, believe, and then take to heart. Especially if you are going to base your belief systems off of it. And please keep in mind also that the Hebrew alphabet is composed of 22 consonants. Each consonant has 2 meanings: one that is verbal, and one from the gematria (numerical) system akin to numerology that has specific meanings as well. If a Hebrew word has 3 consonants, there are 6 possible meanings (depending on the context), and most times the meanings marry together fairly well. There is also the conjugation that  can open up any number of interpretations.The word "know" in Genesis 19:5 is YADA in Hebrew. It is used 943 times in the Old Testament to "know" God, good and evil, the truth, the law, people, places, things, etc.

It is a very flexible word, as are SO many Hebrew words. As are many words in many languages (refer back to that Hebrew, Spanish and French conjugation and translation). The word YADA "to know" is never used in the Old Testament to mean "to have sex with".  People have been conditioned to think that "to know someone biblically" means to have sex.  And, truthfully, if that’s all you’ve ever been taught, why wouldn’t you think that? I don’t blame anyone for thinking that. I have used the term myself. But, the use of YADA in Genesis 4:1-2 to say that Adam knew Eve and she conceived and gave birth to Cain is followed by saying that later she gave birth to his brother Abel without any reference to YADA. Why? Simply because YADA does not mean to have sex.  It is a general term that describes many kinds of intimate relationships.  In studying the different uses of YADA in the Old Testament, my conclusion is that it never means what we mean by sexual intercourse. I can just hear both liberals and conservatives now! Gasping for air! It. Doesn’t. Mean. That. Y’all will just have to get over it.

Try this: Close your eyes. Breathe. Now, just substitute some slang expression for sex instead of the word "know" in Genesis 4:1 and you will see how silly the idea is. Old Testament writers never thought or wrote in those terms.  The Bible never gives any details about sexual acts (minus the Song of Solomon…holla!). The only clear Hebrew term for sexual acts is "to lie with," which is left without any further explanation. I know when I have sex, I don’t “lie” there. So that’s weird, too. Scripture can be confusing. I’ll try to help make it clearer.

Let’s examine the actual story. In Genesis 19:5, the word YADA was used to express the request of the people of Sodom that Lot should bring out the strangers in his house so that they could know who they were.  But there is more to it than that. There were real cultural and political issues at the time that caused this reaction. You need to first understand that Sodom was a tiny, little bitty fortress in the barren wasteland south of the Dead Sea. If you weren’t from there, you generally weren’t there. You weren’t welcome there. Think of it in current terms of Israel and Palestine, or maybe in terms of rival gangs in big cities. The only strangers that the people of Sodom ever saw were enemy tribes who wanted to destroy and take over their valuable fortress and the trade routes that it protected.  Even Lot himself was an alien in their midst. He was Jewish, and well off, and a great man and trader. He was a successful business man there, but he was an outsider.

Do you, Reader, begin to understand some of the climate? Also, what does “know” mean there? So, was it to understand who these strangers were and possibly hurt them? Probably, it was to ask why there were strangers welcomed on their “turf” and to possibly hurt them. Even less likely, but still a valid question due to wording and translation issues is: Was it to “get off” because they were gay and wanted to just have sex with them or rape them? If that was part of the torture, yes. It is more doubtful this was the only intent, but the next passage certainly makes it seem so.

Personally, I don’t like the next part. From the conservative standpoint, it partly undermines my point, unless you read it, process it, and understand the way that people punished and humiliated strangers and men in those times. Granted, the mob assembled was clearly upset about something. And they did ask for the strangers (angels). And in those days, hurting and humiliating different tribes, cultures, and men on those days was rough. Cutting to the chase, it was through anal rape. Through stripping and beating and raping. So, then… it is not entirely implausible that this is a part of their request to Lot. But not just through the word “know”. You have to know some history, and the context. This wasn’t just in Sodom. This was common in the era. Spartans, Romans, Greeks, and Jews alike used anal rape as punishment. Again, I understand the culture of the time, but what I hate is the next part:

I don’t really “get” the answer Lot gave. Lot's astounding and inexplicable (to me) response to the request was to offer his young daughters to the men. That’s why I hate this story, I hate Lot’s response, and I hate the entire cultural situation this story has caused - It was the whole daughter thing. The town got riled up, created a mob, and wanted to punish the strangers, and Lot offers them his kids. So, if it was a gay thing, and Sodom men just have sex with men, why would a daughter suffice for punishment of a foreigner in their midst entertaining other foreigners? Honestly, this is where I began understanding the “inhospitality” defense. And to be honest, Lot’s answer was an offer that seems to me to be far more reprehensible than any problem of sexual orientation. Again, I ask the question, if those men were homosexual, why did Lot offer to give them his daughters?  These hostile and violent people were heterosexual, and homosexual orientation had nothing to do with the incident. I still think Lot should have been struck dead for giving that crowd his children. Sorry, God, but that was just crossing the line to me.

Hmmm… Are you still with me, Reader? Yeah, you are. Well, then, Michael… If this isn’t the case, then why is anal intercourse now termed as sodomy? Partially because people just ended up attributing it incorrectly. People make stupid choices and there are many things that end up in the vernacular that never should have…

"SODOMY" is not a biblical word. Laws against sodomy not only violate the Constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state; they also use an incorrect and wrongly translated term for the laws.  A "Sodomite" in the Bible is simply a person who lives in Sodom, which included Lot and his family.  The term "sodomite" in the King James Version of Deuteronomy 23:17 and I Kings 14:24 is an incorrect translation of the Hebrew word for "temple prostitute."  (See the book by Mark D. Jordan: The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology. University of Chicago Press, 1997.) – Rembert Truluck

And, as I have stated previously, most people don’t study for themselves. They just don’t. Most of the “Average Joes” that go to church on Sunday never research the language, the history, or the meanings for themselves. Actually, in my opinion, the average person assumes that the Bible clearly condemns male to male sexual intercourse as "sodomy" and that the city of Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality, which is seen as the worst of all sins in the Bible.  These assumptions are based on no evidence at all in the Bible. For instance, did you personally know that NO Jewish scholars before the first Christian century taught that the sin of Sodom was of a sexual nature? None of the biblical references to Sodom mention sexual sins but view Sodom as an example of injustice, lack of hospitality to strangers, idolatry and as a symbol for desolation and destruction.  Don’t believe me? Check out Deuteronomy 29:22-28; 32:32; Ezekiel 16:49-50; Jeremiah 49:18; 50:41; Isaiah 13:19-22 and Matthew 10:14-15. Read the strange story in Judges 19:1-30 of the Levite in Gibeah, which was patterned after the story of Lot and the angels in Genesis 19.  Jewish teachers before the time of Christ never saw either of these stories as having any connection with homosexuality or sexual orientation. And, also, in Jude 7, the term "strange flesh" is Greek heterosarkos ("different flesh" and from which the word "heterosexual" comes) and refers to foreign idols or people. There will be more on this later. But it isn’t translated from homo ("the same") flesh or people. Another interesting point of note for this is that sarkos is never used in the New Testament as a word for "sex."

I know: This is a heavy subject. And it can really be difficult to translate and comprehend based on lifelong teachings versus actually reading words from Hebrew and translating them to context. And, honestly, it can be kind of a yawn to read. So, then…what really happened in Sodom? Besides the basic story that everyone seems to know, if you twist the story, and you only want it to say it was a gay thing…you will get that out of it. But if you do that, you will miss what it actually does try to tell you and the message that the story is trying to impart.

The bottom line is that the story does not deal with being gay. It doesn’t deal with how a person identifies themselves or their sexual orientation. At the end of the day, it has no bearing at all on the issue of the God of the Old Testament and his acceptance or rejection of what would be considered “LGBT” in today’s standards.  The story of Sodom clearly teaches that evil and violent people who attack aliens and strangers whom they do not know or understand receive God's quick and terrible punishment. I mean, please read Leviticus. I am begging all of you readers out there, both of you. Please read and study for yourselves. Conservative Jewish people had very strict hospitality rules - even to the Gentiles and heathens. Read about it, folks. Hospitality and codes of conduct are all up in Leviticus.

Here are additional blogs in the series:
Part One - Why and Introduction
Part Two - Sodom and Gomorrah
Part Two - Levitical Law
Part Two - Romans Road To Salvation
Part Two - Oh, Paul... Nobody Likes Prison Rape
Part Two - Wrapping Up the "Big Six" Scriptures
Part Three - WWJD, Y'all? What Would Jesus Do?
Part Three - Better Run Tell Somebody!
Part Four - Same Sex Activity In The Bible
Part Five - Common Christian Beliefs
Part Five - One Anglican View Against Being Gay
Part Six - Examples of Gay Couples in The Bible
Part Six - David and Jonathan - A Love Story
Part Seven - Conclusions, Recaps, and References



  1. Thanks for taking the time to share the context of all this with people like me who are curious but never bothered with going to a seminary. :)

  2. Thank you for the comment! I appreciate it.