As Australia prepares for a postal referendum on gay marriage, opponents of the proposal are prone to citing biblical values and referring to Bible passages. But what does the Bible actually say? This article aims to answer that question using the rigorous methodology of critical biblical scholarship. That means pulling together a wide range of academic disciplines including literary criticism, archaeology, history, philology, and social science. The aim is to produce the most plausible, historically grounded interpretation of what the Bible teaches on homosexuality and human sexuality in general.
Some people argue that the Bible forbids homosexuality, quoting the Old Testament texts of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Levite’s concubine. But there is a lot of cultural, historical and linguistic data that shows that those texts were not about committed same-sex relationships but rather about male honor, sexual violence and the Ancient Near East’s stigma against violating male honor.
Other people argue that the Bible allows homosexuality, quoting various Biblical passages relating to love, hospitality, and God’s will for us all to be one. But there is a lot of cultural, historic and linguistic data that shows those passages are not about committed same-sex relationships but instead about loving others as ourselves.
Still, many Christians recognize that new information about the world and people should lead them to reconsider their beliefs — just as it has done throughout church history. It is also worth noting that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount suggests that Christians should learn through experience how to distinguish between good and bad teachings from Scripture.