- The condition of sexual attraction to a person of the same sex. There does not exist a precise or unambiguous Hebrew or Greek word for this inclination, though it may be implied by the relationship of David and Jonathan (2 Sam. 1:26); but fear of sinking to the mores of Egypt and Canaan may have led to the condemnation of homosexual genital activity in Lev. 18:22. The word ‘sodomy’, derived from the story of Gen. 19:1–29, is inappropriate for individual homosexual behaviour, for the story is one of intended gang rape (see Sodom). In the NT Paul cites homosexual relations as an instance of human perversion in the Gentile world. Paul shares contemporary Jewish revulsion at what was not merely usual but socially approved male behaviour in the Graeco-Roman world. The intellectual élite of Athens had long been accustomed to making love to attractive boys; it was part of normal educational life. The same culture prevailed in 1st-cent. Rome. Homosexual relations, however, were far more widely practised—slaves sometimes being forced to play the passive role, according to Seneca. So common and so generally known were homosexual practices in the Gentile world, that Jewish writers were shocked. Philo condemns homosexual activity as almost as bad as bestiality (Special Laws 3:37–42), and Paul in Rom. 1:24–32 shares this Jewish disgust at what, no doubt, many of his Gentile converts had some experience of (1 Cor. 6:11), and at the least he has in mind the exploitation, as he would have seen it, of minors and male temple prostitutes. His condemnation must also embrace the deviation of heterosexual men and women from their procreative function to a homosexual relationship (Rom. 1:26–7). Many scholars hold on the basis of Paul's ‘natural’ . . . ‘unnatural’ that this is the extent of his Christian judgment and that he is not uttering a blanket condemnation of homosexual inclination or activity. At any rate, as with medical knowledge in general, much that is now understood about the psychology and biochemistry of this condition was unavailable in the 1st cent. Nothing explicit is recorded in the teaching of Jesus; but according to Matt. 8 Jesus responded to the request of a Roman centurion to heal his paralysed ‘servant’ or boy (Greek, pais). Since it was the accepted practice for officers on foreign assignments to be accompanied by youths for sexual recreation, his disease may have been related to this. At any rate Jesus acted compassionately.
Dictionary of the Bible.
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