Gagnon Responds to Uniformed Intolerance

The follow is from an exchange between a tolerant pro-homosexual and Robert Gagnon. I repost here for the helpful sources listed in the exchange:

A comment that I made on the FB site of Unbelievable? to a rather abusive person, which might be helpful for showing how even the scholars supportive of homosexual relations, who have done the most detailed study of Scripture and homosexuality (or, in one case, homosexuality and civilization) don’t accept the usual claims that there is nothing in the Bible opposed to committed homosexual unions.

Rebekah, of all your insupportable comments, this one really “takes the cake”: “Robert you lack the ability to critically evaluate, you have made up your mind and are desperate to make scripture fit your view. Why is this? I suspect that you hold some personal connection to homosexuality which you have yet to make peace with. An in depth hermeneutical exegesis of the texts shows that there is absolutely no condemnation of loving committed same-sex relationships. You read this into the text but it is simply not there.”

In a 500-page book (which you have yet to read) I critically evaluated every work on the Bible and homosexuality that I can get my hands on. Even William Loader has not only treated it as the most important work from a “traditionalist” viewpoint but also reached exegetical conclusions that agree far more with what I have written than anything you have spouted here. Even though he strongly supports “gay marriage,” he (author of ten or so major works on sexual ethics in early Judaism and Christianity, including the 500-page New Testament on Sexuality [Eerdmans]) regards your view, “an in depth hermeneutical exegesis of the texts shows that there is absolutely no condemnation of loving committed same-sex relationships” in Scripture, as utterly ahistorical.

Lacking substantive argument for your position, you throw out some psycho-babble: “I suspect that you hold some personal connection to homosexuality which you have yet to make peace with.” More ad hominem from the person who claims to know all about love. Do you not realize that every time you throw out such ad hominem attacks you not only disclose how unloving you are but you also demonstrate how inadequate you are in addressing the points that I have raised?

So, since NT scholar William Loader (who is also a Methodist minister, I believe) doesn’t agree with your assessment of the biblical evidence, what is his hang-up? Loader states: “Jesus’ “statements [in Mark 10:2-9 // Matt 19:3-9] clearly exclude sexual relations beyond that union [between a man and a woman, including same-sex relations]. Nothing indicates that Jesus would have approached the prohibitions of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 any differently than his Jewish contemporaries. Indeed he would have apparently supported John the Baptist’s very strict application of the incest provisions of Lev 18:16 to Herod Antipas (Mark 6:17-18)” (The New Testament on Sexuality, 337). He adds: For Jesus “one flesh” referred to “a singleness of being” and “reflects the idea that the male and female originally belonged together … and that sexual intercourse in some way rejoins the male and female to one” (Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition, 243).

About Paul Loader says: “With the reference to female and male here [in Rom 1:26-27], he connects with the creation, to which he has alluded specifically in 1:23. It is highly probable that he believes, that the creation story implies that only sexual relations between male and female (and then only in marriage) are acceptable before God. It was inevitable that Jewish authors would associate nature and divine creation and ordering as its foundation” (The New Testament on Sexuality, 313-14). “Paul’s indictment in Rom 1:26-27 “included, but [was] by no means limited to exploitative pederasty,” “sexual abuse of male slaves,” or “same-sex acts … performed within idolatrous ritual contexts” (The New Testament on Sexuality, 325). Homosexual relationships in the Greco-Roman world “could include lifelong consensual adult partnerships” (324). “It is inconceivable that [Paul] would approve of any same-sex acts if, as we must assume, he affirmed the prohibitions of Lev 18:22; 20:13 as fellow Jews of his time understood them” (322). The term arsenokoitai in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 was “certainly not limited to [pederasty]. Exploitation was a common feature in most same-sex encounters, but not all. Thus it is better to take the word as closely cohering with what Paul condemns in Romans 1 and reflecting the [absolute] prohibitions of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 on which it appears to be built” (331). “If we return to μαλακοί [malakoi] in the light of this understanding of ἀρσενοκοῖται, then the former are most likely to be those who willingly engaged in the transgression, including male prostitutes, but also other consenting males” (331).

Then, too, what is the hang-up of historian Louis Crompton, a self-identified gay man, who wrote a 500-page book on Homosexuality and Civilization (Harvard University Press)? For Crompton concludes: “According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian” (p. 114).

Don’t forget also to explore the psychological problem with lesbian NT scholar Bernadette Brooten (Love Between Women [University of Chicago Press; 500 pages]), who also finds the view that you espouse to be historically untenable. “Boswell … argued that … ‘The early Christian church does not appear to have opposed homosexual behavior per se.’ The sources on female homoeroticism that I present in this book run absolutely counter to [this conclusion]…. If . . . the dehumanizing aspects of pederasty motivated Paul to condemn sexual relations between males, then why did he condemn relations between females in the same sentence? … Rom 1:27, like Lev 18:22 and 20:13, condemns all males in male-male relationships regardless of age, making it unlikely that lack of mutuality or concern for the passive boy were Paul’s central concerns…. The ancient sources, which rarely speak of sexual relations between women and girls, undermine Robin Scroggs’s theory that Paul opposed homosexuality as pederasty” (11; 253 n. 106, 257, 361).

So all four of us, each of whom have written the kind of detailed works on homosexuality in the Bible and/or antiquity that you (as yet) could only dream of writing, three of whom actually agree with you that homosexual relations should be strongly supported by the culture and the church, all disagree with your conclusion that Jesus and the authors of Scripture would not have opposed committed homosexual unions. But you are right and we are wrong, even though you have put forward no compelling arguments for your case or for refuting the arguments that I have put forward but instead have relied on the work of Boswell in 1980 that we have since discredited.

As an example of your superior exegesis you put forward arguments from Boswell’s discredited reading of arsenokoitai (sg. arsenokoites) in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10. I refuted those reasons and listed eleven arguments from literary and historical context to show that the term certainly included non-exploitative homosexual practice. You have shown yourself unable to refute a single argument. This would be the place to put your claims into practice and show how I (and Loader) have distorted the evidence. Instead, I get a lot of invective and personal attacks from you.

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