Est. May 2008

25 April, 2014

‘But Paul Says …’

In this post, I gave my opinion on why the gospels don’t record Jesus speaking directly against homosexuality or homosexual acts.

When we come to Paul, though, it’s almost a 1800 reversal: Paul writes against homosexuality directly in 1 Corinthians (6:9-10) and 1 Timothy (1:8-11); he alludes strongly to it in Romans (1:18-32), Galatians (5:19-21) and Ephesians (5:3-6), calling it (respectively), exchanging ‘natural relations for those that are contrary to nature’, ‘sexual immorality’, and, again ‘sexual immorality’.

Plenty of people out there have tried over and over again to convince us that Paul didn’t know what he was talking about: that rather than talking about committed, loving same-sex relationships, Paul was talking about temple prostitution or a dominance/submissiveness type of sexual exploitation.  The problem with those explanations is that they’re wrong, specifically based on the words Paul used.

But, if Jesus didn’t say anything (or, at least, since nothing was recorded), why, if Paul is right and he was trained directly by Christ and the Holy Spirit while he was in the desert after Damascus, does he bring it up so often?

Because of his audience.

Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.  The Gentiles didn’t have the written Law of Moses.  Most likely, they engaged in the behaviors and activities Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 6, Galatians and Ephesians; that explains why he writes to them about it. 

The Gentiles didn’t have the Law of Moses, but they did have ‘the law’, and it was printed on their hearts:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
They just didn’t know where that ‘work of the law’ ‘written on their hearts’ had come from.

That was Paul’s task: to explain it to them.  The Jews didn’t need an explanation – they already had the Law – but the Gentiles did.

For the most part, in Gentile society, homosexuality might have been socially unacceptable, but so long as nobody had to see it, very little was done against it.  But note that Paul, in his ‘lists’, combines homosexuality with general sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, theft, greed, drunkenness, scorning (‘revilers’), general lawlessness and disobedience, ungodliness, sinfulness, un-holiness, profaneness, abuse of parents, murder, slave-making, perjuring, impurity, sensuality, ‘sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions’, envy, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking, and coveting.

That’s quite a conglomeration, isn’t it?  And most of those sins aren’t actionable in court, are they?  Murder and theft, certainly; the rest, not so much.  So why would Paul throw all of those other sins in with the biggies of murder and theft?

To show his Gentile audience what a Jewish audience would have already known – they’re all sins against God.

So Paul wrote about homosexuality – along with a host of other sins – because his audience, not being Jews and not having the benefit of having grown up learning the Mosaic Law, wouldn’t have known as violations against the new God they were now worshiping.

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