Many in the day who would seek to distort the Scriptures on the issue of homosexuality do so by adopting a unique and peculiar historical-interpretive method for Scripture. Historical context is no doubt important to interpretation, but it is not alone what is needed. The text itself is still communicating its own message with syntax, grammar, and context. Scripture is able to communicate a message and interpret itself.
It is not permissible to take irrelevant historical information and allow that to completely destroy the grammar of the text. This happens often when revisionists would seek to adopt the postmodern, novel interpretations of the texts dealing with homosexuality in Scripture. It is true that I write this during the day and age when the NFL plays in the Super Bowl era. Is that historical reality influencing the argument or interpretation of this post? Not all history matters.
To use just one example, when Paul rebukes homosexuality in Romans 1, it is typically dodged by saying that “Paul was dealing with young boys who were raped by older men.”
Did this happen? Yes. Many, especially Romans with high ranking State positions, would in fact do this, without punishment. However, that does not mean Paul’s actual words are not allowed to define his own terms and establish his own context. Notice what Paul says in his rebuke in verses 26-27:
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
Paul here defines his own terms. First, he addresses women, which already destroys the revisionist’s attempts to contextualize this passage away. How many female Roman centurions were engaging in relations with younger female slave girls? Paul’s initial response to lesbianism is at odds with the history being forced into this text.
Then, Paul speak of the men also engaging in unnatural relationships, the very the same behavior the women are engaged in. And how does Paul describe it?
“gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…”
The men are rejecting the natural relationships “with women.” Paul knows that it is natural for men to have relations with women. However, the men in focus here instead were consumed with passions for whom… little boys, as the revisionists suggest? No, for one another. Men are consumed for other men; not little boys, and women are consumed for other women.
“men committing shameless acts with men…”
The relations are then described as shameless acts with other men. The shameless acts are being conducted by men to other men; rather than to young, enslaved boys. Nothing in the text suggests that Paul is dealing with little boys, and nothing suggests that this was not consensual; it actually presents the exact opposite picture: consensual, sexual relationships between grown men. If it were as the revisionists say, why didn’t Paul just say it? It certainly is within the bounds of the Greek language to condemn Roman officials raping young boys. That’s supposed to be what Paul is addressing, yet he never uses any of those categories. No historical context can overturn the basic grammar, syntax, and meaning of Paul’s letter in this particular text.
To demonstrate this, I am going to conclude by applying the same logic to other prohibitions in Scripture:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
“Well, you see, this was being written to a context of people who were living in a day and age where all of the pagan religions worshipped carved idols. The purpose was to separate the Jews from the world. Times have changed. People today don’t really have as many idols as peoples did then, and those who do, don’t worship them in the same way. Muslims don’t have wooden Gods, Mormons don’t have carved images, Jehovah’s witnesses have no images, religions don’t really do that anymore. And the ones that have them don’t worship them in the same way. The point is, the context of Exodus was not dealing with the kind of idol relationships we see today. That’s why God is perfectly happy and supportive of graven images today; this is a different context.
Exodus 20: 14,
“You shall not commit adultery.”
Well, once again, marriage was very different to that culture. Marriage was not based on consensual love. Often times, the Jewish women were given over in marriage by their parents to men they didn’t choose. Obviously, that’s different then the kind of marriages we see today. In our society, marriages are completely up to the individuals to make their own decisions. That is why, if two married people want to have an open relationship and sleep with others, they are allowed to do that. Because adultery really only applies to the kind of marriage back then, when women were given to men. Those women were purchased, therefore they didn’t have the same rights. That is why their faithfulness expectations were different.
I hope you see the point. Allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. The words of God are living and active; they are quite capable of doing that.