from Fr. Daniel Helminiak, Dignity/Houston BBS
The sin of Sodom. That sin was inhospitality. The Bible itself gives this interpretation in Ezekiel 16:48-49, Wisdom 9:13-14, Matthew 10:5-15. If the sodomites' desire `to know' the visitors implies sex, the specific form of inhospitality in question here includes sexual abuse, rape.
by Bill Sklar <86730@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
"References on Homosexuality and the Bible"
Taken from Is the Homosexual my Neighbor, by Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (pp 54-59):
...the men of Sodom could not have been exclusively homosexual in their orientation in the sense that the term is used today. Quite likely, they were primarily heterosexual, out for novelty, and seeking to humiliate the strangers... Every last one of the city's males is said to have taken part in this attempted gang rape! Sodom certainly was not a 'gay city'... Rape is not so much a sexual act as it is an act of violence. In.. rape... the emphasis is on displaying force and demonstrating power over someone who is perceived as weak and vulnerable... Among some ancient peoples, it was not unusual to flaunt one's triumph over enemies by treating them with the greatest possible contempt. Such contempt was demonstrated by forcing captive men to 'take the part of a woman' and be passive recipients in anal intercourse...
If the modern prison's version of a gang rape was in the minds of the men of Sodom, it is understandable that they did not accept Lot's offer of his daughters. Women already had a low place in the society of Sodom... Humiliating actual women would not have provided the sense of conquest they had anticipated in degrading the male strangers and 'dragging them down' to the level of women...
In the ancient Middle East, writes John McKenzie, 'that the woman should be sacrificed for the man was simply taken for granted.' No wonder that a man would dread the disgrace and punishment of being treated 'like a woman,' which is what male gang rape signified.
...rather than concentrating on homosexuality, the Sodom story seems to be focusing on two specific evils: (1) violent gang rape and (2) inhospitality to the stranger. Surely, none of us would be prepared to say that if the men of Sodom had accepted the offer of Lot's daughters... then God would have withheld judgement. Violence... is the real part of this story. To put it another way: even if the angels had taken on the form of women in their earthly visitation, the desire of the men of Sodom to rape them would have been every bit as evil in the sight of God...
Concerning the inhospitality described in the Sodom story, John McNeil reminds Christians of the irony that no group has been treated less hospitably by the church than the homosexual community, and that the biblical passage used to justify such treatment has been the very one that condemns uncharitable behavior.
'In the name of a mistaken understanding of the true crime of Sodom and Gomorrah, the true crime of Sodom and Gomorrah has been and continues to be repeated every day,' argues McNeil. To underscore the sin of inhospitality in Sodom, he reminds us of Jesus' words to his disciples in Luke 10:10-13: 'When you enter a town and they do not make you welcome... I tell you it will be more bearable for Sodom on the great Day than for that town.'
This brings us to a second factor to keep in mind whine examining the story of Sodom: the Bible is its own best commentary on many issues. And the Bible provides explanations for Sodom's destruction that have nothing at all to do with homosexuality. In the first chapter of Isaiah, the nation of Judah is rebuked through a comparison with Sodom and Gomorrah. The specific sins mentioned are greed, rebellion against God, empty religious ritual without true devotion to God, failure to plead the cause of orphans and widows, failure to pursue justice, and failure to champion the oppressed. There is no mention of homosexuality...
In the New Testament... Jesus refers to Sodom, not in the context of sexual acts, but in the context of inhospitality (Luke 10:10) Jude 7 does refer to the sexual sins of Sodom: 'The committed fornication and followed unnatural lusts.' The emphasis here is on heterosexual intercourse outside of marriage (fornication) and on 'going after alien or other or strange flesh,' as the original Greek reads in literal translation. These 'unnatural lusts' thus could, in this context, and in view of the apocryphal texts to which Jude made an allusion, refer to a desire for sexual contact between human and heavenly beings. The Jerusalem Bible footnote for Jude 7 reads 'They lusted not after human beings, but after the strangers who were angels.'
If, then, we decide to follow the time-honored principles of allowing the Bible to provide its own commentary and of interpreting678 cloudy passages in the light of clearer ones, we are forced to admit that the Sodom story says nothing at all about the homosexual condition. The only real application to homosexuals would have to be a general one: homosexuals, like everybody else, should show hospitality to strangers, should deal justly with the poor and vulnerable, and should not force their sexual attentions upon those unwilling to receive them.
And, according to The New Testament and Homosexuality, by Robin Scroggs (p 73):
Any claim.... that the story [of Sodom] is a blanket condemnation of homosexuality in general is unjustified. The attempt on the bodies of the guests is but an example of the general evil, which has already caught God's attention. It is, furthermore, an attempt at rape. The most that can be said is that the story judges... rape to be evil and worthy of condemnation.
Scholars have noted that virtually none of the other references to this story in the Hebrew Bible (unless it is that of the Levite and his concubine) explicitly interpret the sin as sexual... later Biblical authors thus had no apparent interest in the homosexual dimension of this story.
by James Alan Hall firstname.lastname@example.org
"Biblical arguments and homosexuality"
(most of argument, and some text, taken from chapter four of John Boswell Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, confirmed by Hall in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible)
The argument that God punished Sodom for homosexuality turns on the word "know" in Genesis 19:5, "And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them." The chapter contains no other possible reference to homosexuality.
There is no reason to assume that "know" in this passage meant carnal knowledge: the Hebrew verb "to know" occurs 943 times in the Old Testament, but refers to carnal knowledge only ten times. In the Septuagint, the Greek word chosen to translate it in this verse clearly means "to make the acquaintance of" with no sexual connotation. There is a strikingly similar passage in Judges 19:22ff., "...the men of the city...beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him." (The old man even offers his daughter as a bribe to get them to go away, just as Lot does.) This passage is universally interpreted as a warning against inhospitality, and the old man himself doesn't mention homosexuality at all when he recounts the incident in 20:5. Jesus himself apparently believed that Sodom was destroyed for the sin of inhospitality: check Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:10-12. In Ezekial 16:49-50 the sins of Sodom are enumerated; homosexuality is not mentioned.
The word "sodomite" occurs five times in the King James Version: Deuteronomy 23:17; I Kings 14:24, 15:12, and 22:46; and II Kings 23:7. In all five cases it translates the Hebrew word "qadesh" which means a male prostitute in a pagan temple; there is very little evidence about the practices of the qadeshim, and no particular reason to assume they serviced men.
The only direct references to homosexuality in the King James Old Testament are Leviticus 18:22, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination," and the similar verse 20:13. "Abomination" here is a rather loaded translation of the Hebrew word "toebah" which suggests ritual uncleanliness rather than moral evil. Both Jesus and Paul taught that under the new dispensation it was not the physical violation of Levitical precepts which constituted "abomination" but the interior infidelity of the soul. The Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 49 decided that converts to the Christian faith would not be bound by any requirements of the Mosaic law except to refrain from eating food that had been strangled, contained blood, or had been offered to idols, and to refrain from fornication--the Greek term for which does not refer to homosexuality. (There is also room for doubt as to what exactly is being prohibited: a literal translation would be "You shall not sleep the sleep of a woman with a man"; just what constitutes "the sleep of a woman" has been the subject of considerable debate, to put it mildly, among Jewish scholars. Some have speculated that this passage, too, was aimed specifically at curbing temple prostitution; notice, for example, that the qadeshim are specifically labeled as "toebah" in I Kings 14:24.)
from WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY
by Wilfrid R. Koponen, Ph.D., M.B.A., M.A.R., M.A.)
Genesis 19:4-11; Judges 19:22 (Cf. Jude 6-7; 2 Peter 2:4, 6-8.) Most people assume Sodom was destroyed due to God's judgments upon the the homosexual lusts of the inhabitants. Yet many now argue that the sin of Sodom was lack of hospitality to the angelic visitors who stayed with Lot. How does the rest of the Bible explain the 'sin of Sodom'? It is clear from Ezekiel 16:49-50 that Sodom's sin was primarily pride, wealth, and indifference to the needy; it is also evident from Luke 10:10-12 that Jesus explicitly stated that many sins would be punished more severely on the day of Judgment than the sins of Sodom. Even if the sins of Sodom were in part sexual, it is important to note that it is the violence of the treatment of the strangers that is condemned -- something that hardly applies to acts performed between *consenting* adults.
by John P. Refling
John Refling is a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. He may be reached through e-mail at email@example.com. This article appeared in the "Phoenix", Fall 1991, UC Irvine's gay/lesbian/bisexual newspaper, ISSN 1055-095X. Copyright (c) 1991 by John P. Refling. All rights reserved.
Old Testament Texts - Genesis 19
This is the familiar story of the city of Sodom, the wicked city par excellence. The passages say that Lot (himself a foreigner to the city of Sodom) had two visitors---angels, which he fed. Before they lay down [Lot and the angels], the townsmen came to Lot's house to "know" the visitors.
Since Lot's guests had already eaten in his house, it was necessary for him to uphold oriental hospitality by guaranteeing them protection .
The townsmen were angry that a visitor to their city was sheltering other visitors, and tried to break into Lot's house to deal with him. Lot, out of fear for himself and in an attempt to uphold oriental hospitality, offered his "virgin" daughters to the crowd.
Just because Lot offered his daughters to them, does not allow the modern Bible reader to conclude that the townsmen wanted something sexual from either Angels or humans. Furthermore, if the town was the homosexual haven as modern readers assume, then why would Lot bother to offer the townsmen his daughters as sexual decoys? Is there any homosexual meaning in the words of the Genesis passage? What did the Hebrew verb for "know" mean in that cultural context? Words, even in English, mean different things to different people. Words which mean one thing to a Los Angeles bank president may mean entirely different things to a East Los Angeles Gang member, or a high school student from the "valley". Try reading and understanding Shakespeare without the use of marginal notes, many of which are still in question. That was written only a few hundred years ago in our own language!
Bible scholars tell us that in 10 instances in the entire Old Testament the Hebrew verb "to know" implies heterosexual intercourse, while in 933 instances, no sexual connotation is intended. Thus, one cannot assume any homosexual connotation to the words here .
An understanding of the ancient culture is critical. Because of the large distances between cities, the hot, dusty climate, and the lack of water and food, travelers were dependent on the hospitality of others. Were the townsmen being inhospitable to Lot's visitors? Or had Lot broken another taboo by not introducing his foreign guests to the town first? As a sojourner, he had no right to stand against the townsmen. In the New testament, Jesus discusses the vices of Sodom within the context of inhospitality (Matthew 10:14-15).
More importantly, Sodom was described as wicked in passages before the Genesis 19 story (Gen. 13:13, 18:20). Because Genesis 13 is chronically earlier than Genesis 19, one cannot reach the conclusion that events in Genesis 19 caused Sodom to be labelled as wicked in Genesis 13. Indeed, Genesis 19 may just be an anecdote which happens to give us a feel for how ancient customs were derived from the need for towns to be wary of its visitors. Beware the Trojan Horse!
Arthur C. Clarke noted that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." So too is unknown physical phenomena. Ancient writers mentioned the deleterious atmosphere which withered plants, and the ill-smelling odors emanating from the ground in the Sodom region. While the Book of Jubilees poetically states that the Sodomites were "...causing pollution upon the earth," modern geologists have identified petroleum and gas seepage in the region. Lightning "from the Lord out of heaven" probably did torch the entire town .
Those who told the religious stories could have attached a religious meaning to this natural disaster either by assuming that the city must have been very wicked to have been so thoroughly destroyed by using it as an example---"look-what-will-happen-to-you-if-you-disobey," complete with one shred of remaining evidence---the pillar of salt which remains today. Just as many mythologies attempt to explain physical features of the surroundings and at the same time coerce a naive society into desired behavior patterns, Sodom may only be a generic symbol of wickedness, and should not be tied to specific sins.
Today, sodomy means may different things in different places and contexts: heterosexual sex in an atypical position, homosexual sex, sex with animals, and even heterosexual sex involving people of different social classes. Coupled with the facts that the term for sodomy originated in Latin in the 12th century A.D. , and that Genesis 19 did not have any homosexual connotation for 1800 years of written and oral tradition, it is impossible for us to associate sodomy with the city of Sodom (destroyed in about the 20th century B.C.).
I have shown several possibilities for the meaning of this passage: perhaps the townsmen broke their hospitality rule, perhaps Lot broke his responsibility as a sojourner and the townsmen wanted to investigate. Perhaps a natural disaster occurred and the religious elders wrote the account of Sodom into their religious history as a generic example of the consequences of wickedness, much as a modern-day fable.
Regardless, there is a slim chance that the passage implies anything sexual, and certainly not homosexual, and cannot be taken as a prohibition against homosexuality by today's Christian church.
 The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Oxford University Press, 1971.
 Bailey, Derrick Sherwin, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. 1955.
 The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. 1976.
 Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. 1990.