What Does the Bible Say About Committed Homosexual Relationships?
Were Old Testament and New Testament writers unaware of the possibility of loving and committed homosexual relationships?
Some people claim that Scripture only prohibits exploitive relationships, such as homosexual rape, the abuse of a social inferior, or pederasty (the sexual abuse of boys by men).
The problem with this argument is that the ancient world and biblical writers were certainly aware of homosexual relationships between equals that were as stable as might be expected of such relationships today.
The Greeks of the classic period, for example, generally had a rigidly patriarchal culture that by modern standards badly denigrated women. Even aristocratic women were mostly illiterate and were viewed by husbands as bearers of heirs and managers of households rather than as spiritual and intellectual equals. In fact, the only literate women were a superior class of prostitute, the heterae, who were permitted to attend men’s gatherings and engage them in conversation. Many aristocratic Greeks in this male-dominated, sexually promiscuous culture actually looked upon homosexual sex as a higher form of erotic “love” than marital sex. It was common among the upper classes for a mature man (erastes) to take an adolescent (eromenos) as a protégé/lover, and sometimes the relationship between the two would continue into later life. The prevalence of this practice demonstrates that homosexuality or what today is called “bisexuality” is not primarily “inborn,” but a trait that is largely the result of cultural influences. This kind of homosexuality was described or depicted in a wide range of literature and art from the period, including the works of Plato.
As a Greek-speaking, educated Jew, the apostle Paul was certainly aware of the fact that not all homosexual relationships were “exploitive” in the narrower sense of the term. Certainly, in Greek culture the younger partners in these relationships were not considered powerless or exploited. The issue for him and the other biblical writers wasn’t whether homosexual relationships were “covenantal” or exploitive, but that all homosexual relationships pervert sexual desire and violate the God-given purpose and identity of males and females as sexual beings (Romans 1:18-27 ).