What is Traditional Marriage Anyway?

Recently a friend told me that they “just believed what Christians have always believed for thousands of years” about marriage. Hmmmmm. Really?
Do they believe in arranged marriage? Marriage for family connections or financial gain? Women being forced to marry their rapists?

There was an excellent article written this week on this very subject called, Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves by Jay Michaelson on Religiondispatches.org. In it Mr. Michaelson pointed out in answer to the assertion by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that marriage has been one man, one woman for over five thousand years by pointing out the following (from the Bible):

Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.) But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants.

He goes on to make the points that marriages up until 200 years or so ago were all arranged marriages (the idea that people would get married of their own volition to a spouse of their own choosing was a radical notion), and that in Europe and North America, marriage was mainly a commercial proposition rather than a romantic one. As he says,

Princes married princesses not because of fairy tales, but because their parents had political alliances to consider. Further down the economic ladder, people married for a variety of biological, commercial, and genealogical reasons—but rarely for love. (See Stephanie Coontz’s excellent Marriage: A History for more.).

And finally he raises the issue of interracial marriage, which certainly was not traditional and was even seen by some as a crime against nature and God up until the 1960s.  We must remember that a century ago, African Americans were not considered fully human by religious conservatives. Interracial marriage—as much as it’s disgusting to even say so today—was seen as an unnatural marriage between different species.

Last week I also ran across a little something that BLEW MY MIND. Now, in all fairness, these ceremonies were mainly “civil unions” more for legal purposes and not carnal ones, however there are indications in some of the cases where the men concerned were also called lovers. My point in bringing it up here is that these “unions” certainly call into question at the very least what “traditional marriage” actually means.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, wrote a little book called, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. In it he cites liturgical church documents which discuss, Christian ceremonies dating from the 10th-12th centuries called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” and the “Order for Uniting Two Men”.  These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, the couple was blessed at the alter with their right hands joined, they exchanged vows, a priest administered the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was held afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

The chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) recorded Christian same-sex  unions taking place in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

Boswell also tells of same sex unions as late as 1578 that took place at St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church).  As many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in many archives such as the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in his collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

British historian Alan Bray in his book The Friend, gives a Latin text and translation of a similar Latin Catholic Rite from Slovenia, entitled Ordo ad fratres faciendum, literally “Order for the making of brothers”. Also see Allan Tulchin, “Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement.”[4] in the Journal of Modern History: September 2007, which article demonstrates the ceremony of affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in life long unions which raised family, held property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

In an article written by Allan Tulchin titled, The 600 Year Tradition Behind Same-Sex Unions, he states,

The affrèrement, which existed in France and elsewhere in late medieval Mediterranean Europe, was a contract that provided the foundation for non-nuclear households of many types and shared many characteristics with marriage contracts, as legal writers at the time were well aware. Non-nuclear households were quite common in Mediterranean Europe — more than half the population probably consisted of people in such households. So it is hardly surprising that the law provided for affrèrements as a means to regulate them.

The consequences of entering into an affrèrement were profound. The new “brothers” pledged to live together sharing ‘un pain, un vin, et une bourse’—one bread, one wine, and one purse. All of their goods usually became the joint property of both parties, and each commonly became the other’s legal heir, cutting off other close relatives. They also frequently testified that they entered into the contract because of their affection for one another. As with all contracts, affrèrements had to be sworn before a notary and required witnesses, normally the friends of the affrèrés. The model for these household arrangements is that of two or more brothers who have inherited the family home on an equal basis from their parents and who will continue to live together, just as they did when they were children. But the affrèrement was not only for brothers, since many other people, including relatives and non-relatives, and even married couples, used it.

He also writes in an article in the Journal of Modern History:

But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships.

While my post today doesn’t clear up much on the topic of marriage, one thing is for certain, marriage as recognized and practiced by American churches and the U.S. Government is anything but “what Christians have always believed for thousands of years.”

You can look up the research in these places.
http://www.amazon.com/Christianity-Social-Tolerance-Homosexuality-Fourteenth/dp/0226067114
Saints Sergius & Bacchus, Roman martyrs. Their Catholic feast day  is October 7th. Catholic Encyclopedia [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13728a.htm ]
John Eastburn Boswell (American Council of Learned Societies); Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Random House, June 1994

If all are Martha Stewart where is Amelia Earhart?

Yesterday Rachel Held Evans Wrote an amazing post about how we as women are enough. Just. As. We. Are.  In her post she laments the seeming agreement between much of the messages given in the church about the “Proverbs 31 woman” and the media headlines and magazine covers which ask, “Are you beautiful enough?”, “Are you sexy enough?”, “Are you crafty enough?”, Are you woman enough?” or in the aforementioned cases, “Are you Biblical enough?” and of course, the recent TIME magazine cover, “Are you mom enough?”. In her post Rachel has this to say about being enough,

…by “biblical,” most pointed to a glamorized, westernized version of the Proverbs 31 Woman, who rises before dawn each day, provides food for her family, trades fine linens for a profit, invests in real estate, and works late into the night weaving and sewing.  Christian books and conferences tend to perpetuate the idea that a woman’s worth should be measured by the details, rather than the message, of Proverbs 31, and like the magazines in the checkout line, often  focus on fitness, domesticity, beauty, and success as ways of earning the favor of God and men.

But here’s the thing.

The poetic figure found in Proverbs 31 is not the only woman in the Bible to receive the high praise of, “eshet chayil!” or “woman of valor!

So did Ruth.

And Ruth could not be more opposite than the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Ruth was a Moabite (a big no-no back then; men were forbidden from marrying foreign wives).

Ruth was childless.

Ruth, was a widow— “damaged goods” in those days.

Ruth was dirt poor.

Rather than exchanging fine linens with the merchants to bring home a profit to her husband and children, Ruth spent her days gleaning leftovers from the workers in the fields so she and her mother-in-law could simply survive!

And yet, despite looking nothing like the ancient near Eastern version of a magazine cover,  Ruth is bestowed with the highest honor. She is called a woman of valor. Eshet chayil!

She is called a woman of valor before she marries Boaz, before she has a child with him for Naomi, before she becomes a wealthy and influential woman.

Because in God’s eyes, she was already enough. 

 The brave women of Scripture—from Ruth to Deborah to Mary Magdalene to Mary of Bethany—remind me that there’s no one right way to be a woman, and that these images of perfection with which we are confronted every day are laughable to those of us who are in on the big secret: We are already enough. 

We are enough because God is enough, and God can turn even the smallest acts of valor—letting go of a grudge, cleaning puke out of a kid’s hair, inviting the homeless guy to dinner, listening to someone else’s story— into something great.

Proverbs 31:25 says the wise woman “laughs at the days to come.”

I don’t think the Proverbs 31 Woman laughs because she has it all together. 

I think she laughs because she knows the secret about being enough.

For me the best part about getting older has to be that I have finally become me. By that I mean I am embracing who I am and how I was made. Surprisingly, rather than causing me to compare myself to all the amazing women I know, this has freed me to celebrate them for all that they are as well. My lovelies, the truth is we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses and it is only when we fully embrace the amazing women that God gifted us to be that we realize how much we all need each other. We are humans complete each other. We fill in the gaps. Like it says in 1 Corinthians about the body of Christ, if all are the eye, how do we hear? I submit to you: If all are Cindy Crawford, where is Mother Theresa? If all are Martha Stewart where is Amelia Earhart? If all are Rachel Held Evans, where is Michelle Krabill?

So, you know what?

I do not scrapbook, and I am enough.
Lots of days I don’t wear makeup, and I am enough.
My kids aren’t perfect (but they are awesome), and I am enough.
I am a horrible secretary and not well organized, and I am enough.
My kids only breastfed 6-8 weeks and I didn’t really enjoy it, and I am enough.
I didn’t cry the first day my kids went to Kindergarten, and I am enough.
I do cry when I get angry, frustrated or upset, and I am enough.
I don’t like confrontation, but I like to challenge the status quo and ask questions, and I am enough.

I laugh at the days to come. Eshet chayil!  I am enough.
And you know what else?

You are too.

And a Little Child (Josef Miles) Shall Lead Them

or how Todd Starnes and Paul Cameron were given a lesson in love by a 9 year old boy.

This week Paul Cameron of the Family Research Council responded to President Obama’s statements in support of gay marriage. The above recording is taken from an interview on Crosstalk with Jim Schneider of VCY America (Voice of Christian Youth). Not only did Cameron assert that the President himself might be gay, but he also stated that

“the long term goal of the homosexual movement is to get every little boy to grab his ankles and every little girl to give it a try,” he added, “They will not rest until every one of our children at least gets to try, has the opportunity and maybe is forced to at least once experience homosexual acts.”

This is preposterous, inflammatory and hateful. To accuse the entirety of the homosexual community of such nonsense would be laughable if I didn’t know he was dead serious. Paul Cameron should be ashamed of himself. Please sir, you are making the rest of us look like hate-mongering, paranoid, fools.
http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/pl55.swf

Next up, we have Todd Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary radio show who declared that the reason for the generational divide on the issue of Same Sex Marriage was the public school system. Mr Starnes took to the airwaves with this statement:

“Look at what’s happening in public schools, they’re indoctrination centers. Boys and girls are having their views formulated on gay marriage through the public school system and that’s why it’s becoming generational.”

Education is a very powerful thing. It was after all the desegregation of the schools in the south on the heels of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that signaled the beginning of the civil rights movement. I suspect that in forty years people will look back at this era in the same way we look back at the Jim Crow days of the south.

I will give credit where credit is due here. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, said the president was “now in the 21st century” and that Republicans were “sitting very firmly, without much question, on the wrong side of history on [the issue].”

Now we come to Josef Miles. He is the boy in the sunglasses on the right hand side of this picture.

This past weekend Nine-year-old Josef and his mom were walking around the Washburn University campus in Topeka, Kan., when they saw a group of Westboro Baptist Church protesters armed with the signs you see above. This young man asked his mother if he could make his own sign. He wrote, “GOD HATES NO ONE.”

I am reminded of a conversation starter given by my good friend Nanette Irvin at Novitas Church, in which she said, “If you want to stand out on the street corner with a sign, it ought to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.'”  Our signs should be messages of love.  1 John 4:18-21 says this:

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Jesus also tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (there is no unless in this statement). We can disagree about whether or not we think being gay is a sin. But we cannot use that as an excuse to hate our neighbor and to bear false witness against them.

All three of these people chose to “hold up signs”, whether literal or figurative, that presented their message to the world…
Paul Cameron’s “sign” said, “All homosexuals want  your children to be gay and possibly be forced to have a homosexual experience. You should be scared.”

Todd Starnes’ “sign” said, “Your children are being indoctrinated to accept other people for who they are and this is a bad thing. You should be angry.”

Josef Miles had a sign too; An actual physical sign. It said, “GOD HATES NO ONE.”

And a little child shall lead them.

Your Existence Gives me Hope

Image

So I woke up today with a strange feeling of hope; hope that the tide is shifting; hope that the conversation is taking a new shape. Hope in the face of setbacks like a female attorney who bows to the will of her client,  by wearing a burqa; a client, who if he had his way, would have prevented her from becoming an attorney in the first place and who would strip her of her freedom to practice law and even from leaving her home unaccompanied if given the opportunity. Setbacks like the state of North Carolina passing an amendment that robs fellow Americans/humans of enjoying the same privilege to marry their beloveds and not to be alone, that is why God designed marriage, remember? It is not good for us to be alone, we need someone who is a perfect fit for us.

But like I said, I am feeling hopeful today. Why?

1. The existence of Kent Krabill; Proof that God loves me.

2. The existence of my children who live and breathe and change the world with their love.

3. The existence of Novitas (aka the island of misfit toys) who continually challenge me to love more and judge less.

4. The existence of the countless new friends I am discovering daily.

5. The existence of inspiration. I finally feel like I am learning who I always was.

6. The existence of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead me into the truth and to change me.

7. The existence of the amazing Rachel Held Evans (who inspires me over and over) and her new article.

8. The existence of Justin Lee and his 30 confessions.

9. The existence of magical moments. I mean did you see Josh Hamilton hit 4 home runs in one game? Have you been to Disney World?

10. The existence of Sixty Percent and people who write such things.

11. The existence of Kathy Escobar and The Refuge, Alise Wright, Amanda Miller Garber and RISE church and Pam Hogeweide and all the other UNladylike women of the church.

12. The existence of Brian McLaren, Wade Burleson, Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, my husband and every other men who supports the UNladylike women of the church.

13. The existence of Bert & Evelyn Waggoner and the influence he had on my life and the seeds of change planted in Kent and I at the Sugarland Vineyard.

14. The existence of Derek Watson  who set in motion the tectonic plates of our lives.

15. The existence of Laurie Watson and the work she does as a sex therapist who happens to be a follower of Christ.

16. The existence of the parents I know who are trying to teach their kids to love people, all people.

17. The existence of a shift that has begun in our country and the church toward freedom, equality and acceptance.

18. The existence of people who fight for these things every day.

19. The existence of groups like Christians for Biblical Equality.

20. The existence of the Marin Foundation.

21. The existence of common ground: President Obama and Vice President Chaney both support gay marriage.

22. The existence of Matthew Vines.

23. The existence of people who refuse to stop loving or believing better of people; even the ones who disagree with them.

24. The existence of my parents and grandparents and all the people who have helped to make me who I am.

25. The existence of art, music and poetry.

26. The existence of my God who never stops loving, never stops pursuing, who will one day make EVERYTHING right, who loves all and gives everything to bring his children home to him.

27. The existence of…YOU. YOUR EXISTENCE GIVES ME HOPE

You’ve Got Personality.

Today I would like to give you a gift my lovelies. It is a gift that will help you know yourself, your spouse, your partner, your child, your friend or your bf or gf better. It is a gift that will help you to love yourself, your neighbor and your God better. It is a little personality test called Meyers-Briggs.

For my husband and I this test has been a real eye opener. Kent and I got married 2 days after my 18th birthday and have been married for almost 25 years. This simple personality test has helped us tremendously in furthering our understanding of one another and what makes us do the things we do and not do the things we don’t. It has helped me personally to be more understanding and it has helped us to look for solutions that will actually work for both of us. Knowing the information from the relationship analysis for our types has even helped to defuse potential issues.

I remember when I first saw this on our profiles:

Mine says this:

Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on details maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivious to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP‘s family members.

Kent’s says this:

ENFJs like for things to be well-organized, and work hard at maintaining structure and resolving ambiguity. They have a tendency to be fussy, especially with their home environments.

I was so excited! I finally knew why Kent and I had an argument about this every 6 months for our entire marriage. We weren’t crazy! It was all right there in black and white.
This is just a small example of how these tests have benefited us.

Another example comes from the relationship analysis for ENFPs in relationship with ENFJs:

Where these two excel in relationship is in dealing both with individual people and human affairs in general, the ENFP pften leading the way towards change, development of ideas and possibilities for improvement of conditions; the ENFJ complementing this role with strong advocacy and educative skills combined with commitment to social justice and care for the disadvantaged.

You can see how this could be helpful for us moving forward to love God and love people, all people. You can see how this helps us to use our unique giftings to be all we were meant to be. It makes sense when you see it in light of my blog and Kent’s work as an attorney and our work together as planters of Novitas Church.

I hope the following resources help you to become all you were meant to be and help you see how you were uniquely gifted to love people.

You can take a shortened FREE version here:
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

You can find out your child’s type here:
http://www.personalitypage.com/cgi-local/build_pqk.cgi

You can get a type to type relationship analysis here (this costs $2 and is worth every penny)
http://www.personalitypage.com/html/type_to_type.html

Homosexuality and God: Conclusion

For the last several weeks we have been going through the passages in the scriptures that have been used to condemn gay marriage, convince gay individuals that they need to “pray away the gay”, and sadly, by some to bully LGBT persons.

It is my contention that these verses have been either misinterpreted, misunderstood or misapplied.

I set out in the beginning that I read the Bible as a library of God inspired books that together tell the story of God and humanity. It is a collection of books that contain the truth as it was seen and told from different points in history in the ways and words of the people of that time and culture. God spoke in each era in a way that the people of that time could understand and apply. I believe that God revealed himself little by little, all the while drawing humanity into a more and more reconciled and connected relationship with him. The story of God with humanity in the Scriptures begins with a beautiful poem about the beginning of our story: God and individuals. As the story develops, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebecca and Jacob & Leah & Rachel are added along with the 12 Tribes of Israel: God and the Nation of Israel. Soon Jesus arrives on the scene and expands the story to include previously excluded or marginalized people and give them a voice and a place at the table: Gentiles, women, adulterers, drunks, tax collectors, prostitutes and all others: God and all of humanity. As it turns out God’s story has ALWAYS included ALL people and inviting them in. The blood of Christ covers all. His perfect love and sacrifice is enough for all sin for all time. As we like to say at Novitas, if you want to stand on a street corner with a big sign it should say, “Your sins are forgiven.” The forgiveness, grace, mercy and love of Jesus is big enough to include Pharisees and Homosexuals, Jews and Gentiles, Saints and Sinners.

You can read all the posts in this series at the following links:

Homosexuality and God: A Weekly Exploration
Homosexuality and God: Part 1 – Lev
Homosexuality and God: Part 2 – Genesis
Homosexuality and God: Part 3 – Jude
Homosexuality and God: Part 4 – Eunuchs Who Have Been So From Birth – Matt
Homosexuality and God: Part 5 – Romans
Homosexuality and God: Parts 6 & 7 – Pornoi, Arsenokoitai, and Malakoi – 1 Tim & 1 Cor

God and Homosexuality: Parts 6 and 7 – Pornoi, Arsenokoitai and Malakoi – 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11 NKJV)

knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, (1Tim 1:9-10 NKJV)

Today we are looking at two passages together because they deal with the same concept and Greek words; malakoi and arsenokoitais.  Let’s start with the 1 Timothy passage.  Justin R. Cannon, an Episcopal Priest and the founder of  Inclusive Orthodoxy,  covered the topic so well I am going to simply share what he wrote in his article, The Bible, Christianity, and Homosexuality:

1 Timothy 1:8-10

“Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…” (RSV)

Let us keep in mind that the word translated sodomites is the Greek word arsenokoitai. Our question right now should be, “What is this talking about?” In order to answer this question, we will begin by breaking up the phrase into its structural pairs. You will see these groupings reflected below in the English as well as the Greek. (The New Testament, by the way, was originally written in Greek) 

1 Timothy 1:9-10 (ENGLISH, RSV)

A: Lawless and

disobedient

   
B: Ungodly and sinners    
C:   Unholy and profane    
D:  Murders of fathers  /  murders of mothers / manslayers
E:   Immoral persons  / sodomites / kidnappers
F:   Liars  /  perjurers  / and whatever else

As we see in the English there seems to be a relationship between the words in each rows A, B, C, D, and F. What about row E, though? What do “immoral persons, sodomites, and kidnappers” have in common? To answer this question we will need to explore the Greek. The three Greek words present in line E are: pornoi (pornoiV), arsenokoitai (arsenokoitaiV), and andrapodistai (andrapodistaiV).

Some commonly read Bible translations include King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), New King James (NKJ), Revised Standard Version (RSV), and New English Bible (NEB). These words were, respectively, translated in the following manner:

  pornoi      arsenokoitai  andrapodistai
KJV:    them that defile  
  whoremonger  themselves with men-stealers    
    mankind  
NIV:  adulterers  perverts slave traders
NKJ: fornicators sodomites kidnappers
RSV: immoral persons  sodomites kidnappers
NEB: fornicators   sodomites kidnappers

As we see there is no clear-cut agreement as to what these words mean, though the above translations agree on the general sense of such words. To determine the precise meanings, a lexicon will be used. A lexicon is a scholarly dictionary used to determine the meaning of biblical words. A search through the online Greek lexicon available at searchgodsword.org gives the following information on the Greek term pornos, which is the stem of the word pornoi, the first of the three words:

Pornos derives from the verb pernemi meaning “to sell” and the following three definitions are given:

  1. a male who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire
  2. a male prostitute
  3. a male who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator

Andrapodistes, the stem of the word Andrapodistai, the third word, returns the following definitions:

  1. slave-dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer
  2. of one who unjustly reduces free males to slavery
  3. of one who steals the slaves of others and sells them.

Arsenokoitai, as previously indicated, is made up of the Greek words for male (arseno-) and beds (koitai). In Greek, the word koitai, literally meaning beds, is commonly used as a euphemism for one who has sex. Arseno- is an adjectival prefix, thus literally we could translate this as “male bedder.”

We should now be able to derive an exact understanding of the word arsenokoitai based on the two words that surround it. We have, first of all, the enslaved male prostitute, the “male-bedder” (arsenokoitai), and the slave dealer. The New American Bible offers a footnote that might shed some light on the historical context of the time:

“The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e. boys or young men who were kept for the purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamus…” (NAB)

There was a common practice in which men of Paul’s time would have slave “pet” boys whom they sexually exploited. These boys were prepubescent and without beards so they seemed like females. Today, this practice is referred to as pederasty. Regardless, however, the pornos is clearly a prostitute.

Keeping this in mind, let’s look back at what we have so far: the enslaved male prostitute, the “male-bedder” (arsenokoitai), and the slave dealer. This contextual dynamic leads one to understand arsenokoitai as being the one who sleeps with the prostitute, the man who literally lies on the bed with him. It is as if Paul were saying, “male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them…” Not only does the syntactical and historical context point to this understanding, but also the very literal sense of the word arsenokoitai itself.

If this translation of arsenokoitai is correct, it should also make logical sense where it is also used in 1 Corinthians 6:9, either confirming or refuting our understanding of this word.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (RSV)

The term translated “sexual perverts” in RSV is actually two different words. The first word is malakos, which is the singular form of the word malakoi, and the second term is arsenokoitai.

Some commonly read translations include…

  malakos   arsenokoitai
KJV: effeminate abusers of  themselves with
    mankind
NIV: male prostitutes homosexual offenders
NKJ: homosexuals  sodomites
RSV1952:

                                  homosexuals

RSV1977:                                  sexual perverts
RSV1989: male prostitutes sodomites
Jerusalem Bible: catamites     sodomites

The term malakoi, as an adjective, literally means “soft.” In Matthew 11:8 it has been used as an adjective in reference to clothing. In this text, however, it is used as a noun and its meaning is debated. Does our understanding of arsenokoitai as revealed in 1 Timothy 1:10 as “men who sleep with male-prostitutes” make sense next to this word malakos which is translated by both NIV and RSV as male prostitutes? The Jerusalem Bible even translates the term malakos as catamites, those young soft prepubescent “pet” boys mentioned earlier. The syntactical and historical context of 1 Timothy 1:10 reveals the meaning of the word arsenokoitai as men who sleep with prostitutes, and the fact this also fits the context of 1 Corinthians 6:9 seems to confirm that we have found the meaning of these obscure words. It makes perfect sense that Paul would rebuke not only the prostitute, but also the “male-bedder” or the man who sleeps with that prostitute.

It is also worth noting that the second edition of Tyndale’s New Bible Commentary points out some people believe the Greek word arsenikoites, which some Bible translations say is homosexual, might be “restricted” to male prostitutes. Leon Morris, in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians observes, “The inclusion of idolaters may point us to the immorality of much heathen worship of the day.” Charles Errdman, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians indicates, “The practice of impurity formed a feature of idolatrous worship.”

The Catholic Study Bible also indicates that these verses may be in reference to religious prostitution or as a symbol of any sexual relationship that conflicts with Christ’s claim over us. These verses are a call to gay and straight Christians to maintain only relationships that strengthen their relationships with God. Any relationships, be they sexual or non-sexual, that weaken our bonds with Christ should be terminated. Relationships at work that harm our connection with God need to be changed. 

In conclusion I believe that these scriptures are best explained by Rev. Cannon’s work which would have the 1 Timothy read like this,

Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…”

And the 1 Corinthians passage read like this,

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes or the men who sleep with them, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”


Other reading:
Malakoi is NEVER used in the Bible to Mean Homosexual
Arsenokoites
No Femmes? No Fairies?

God and Homosexuality: Part 5 – Romans 1

Hey everyone! Sorry I didn’t get this out yesterday but it is a big passage and I wanted to make sure I spent enough time on it. Blessings my lovlies. Enjoy.

Today we will be discussing the passage from Romans 1. This passage has traditionally been the one that people point to as being the strongest argument against homosexuality. It is also the one that people point out, has direct application to today because it is located in Romans and written to the first century believers in Rome. While I agree that this text is the passage which most directly addresses homosexual behaviors I believe that Paul is very specific here as to who and what he is talking about. Let’s look at the scripture.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.  (Romans 1:21-32 ESV)

In their book, The Children are Free, Jeff Miner and John Connoley write the following:

…Paul, in his classically trained style, thoroughly explains the factual assumptions and rationale behind his condemnation of the behavior described here. This makes it easy for us to answer our question: Does this passage apply to inherently same-gender-attracted people who are living in loving, committed relationships?

If we follow the passage, step-by-step, we find Paul is moving through a logical progression. He is talking about people who:

  1. Refused to acknowledge and glorify God. (v. 21)
  2. Began worshiping idols (images of created things, rather than the Creator). (v. 23)
  3. Were more interested in earthly pursuits than spiritual pursuits. (v. 25)
  4. Gave up their natural, i.e., innate, passion for the opposite sex in an unbounded search for pleasure. (v. 26-27)
  5. Lived lives full of covetousness, malice, envy, strife, slander, disrespect for parents, pride, and hatred of God. (v. 29-32)

The model of homosexual behavior Paul was addressing here is explicitly associated with idol worship (probably temple prostitution, and with people who, in an unbridled search for pleasure (or because of religious rituals associated with their idolatry), broke away from their natural sexual orientation, participating in promiscuous sex with anyone available.

There are, no doubt, modern people who engage in homosexual sex for reasons similar to those identified in Romans 1. If someone began with a clear heterosexual orientation, but rejected God and began experimenting with gay sex simply as a way of experiencing a new set of pleasures, then this passage may apply to that person. But this is not the experience of the vast majority of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Miner and Conolley go on to point out that the people being discussed in this passage, because of whatever specific actions they have taken (much of Christendom would say because of their idolatry and homosexual activity), “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

I know and have known many homosexual people in my lifetime and this describes almost none of them. As a matter of fact there are many homosexual people who have grown up in the church, who love God and wanted nothing more than to follow Jesus and to love their neighbors who were met with evil, malice, strife, gossip, slander and several other things listed here simply for saying they were attracted to members of the same gender. How does that add up? On the web site gaychristian.net Justin Lee says in his essay:

Notice that Paul talks about homosexuality in connection with the fertility rites (look for the “therefore” in v. 24 and “because of this” in v. 26), and not in the list of sins at the end of the passage.

Rome was known at the time to be a society full of idol worship. Sex acts were almost always a part of the temple worship of these false gods. This section is clearly written in that context. Even in Roman society as a whole sex was thought of in a way that would be totally foreign to us today.

Wikipedia notes regarding the attitudes regarding sex in the Roman world,

No moral censure was directed at the adult male who enjoyed sex acts with either women or males of inferior status, as long as his behaviors revealed no weaknesses or excesses, nor infringed on the rights and prerogatives of his male peers. While perceived effeminacy was denounced, especially in political rhetoric, sex in moderation with male prostitutes or slaves was not regarded as improper or vitiating to masculinity, if the male citizen took the active and not the receptive role.

We should also discuss the “due penalty for their error” clause. Many Christians teach that the “error” is homosexuality and that the “due penalty” is sexually transmitted disease or AIDS. This really just doesn’t make sense on its face. Heterosexuals get sexually transmitted diseases and lesbians have the lowest risk of contracting AIDS. It seems obvious to me this is talking about something else. In What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel A. Helminiak, he states,

…what is translated as “in their own persons” reads differently in Greek. A better translation would be “among themselves.” The reference is not to individuals and their persons but to the Gentiles as a whole, to their culture.

Moreover, the word “penalty” offers a loaded translation; it carries a negative connotation which is not in the Greek. The Greek word simply means “recompense, “desserts,” or ” payment,” which could be positive, negative or neutral.

Given what we already understand about the first chapter of Romans, a very easy explanation of verse 27 arises. The error Paul refers to is not homosexuality but Gentile idolatry. Idolatry is his concern throughout the whole of that chapter: they knew God but did not worship God. And the recompense that comes to the Gentiles for not worshiping God is the uncleanness that is a regular part of their culture.

The other thing I love that no one talks about is what immediately follows this section in Romans 2 (please also remember that Chapter breaks and headings were added to help people find their way around scripture and have no authority). Let’s look at Romans 2 where Paul makes sure that the Roman believers know who is the righteous Judge.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  (Romans 2:1-4)

So, right after Paul discusses idol worship, having no other Gods, turning against God and who he made you (for some people this means homosexual) and living lives full of covetousness, malice, envy, strife, slander, disrespect for parents, pride, and hatred of God, he turns around and says, “Hey, don’t be too quick to judge though, because you have done the same things!” Hmm.

In the book Jesus, The Bible and Homosexuality, Jack Rogers, points out several errors people make when interpreting this passage.

(1) they lose sight of the fact that this passage is primarily about idolatry, (2) they overlook Paul’s point that we are all sinners, (3) they miss the cultural subtext, and (4) they apply Paul’s condemnation of immoral sexual activity to faithful gay and lesbian Christians who are not idolaters, who love God, and who seek to live in thankful obedience to God.

You can read more at:

gaychristian.net
Would Jesus Discriminate?
Gentle Shepherd MCC
Amazon Book list

God and Homsexuality: Part 4 – “Eunuchs Who Have Been So From Birth” Matt 19

* WARNING* Today’s post is rather lengthy but, in my defense…it needed to be. 😉

Another week has gone by and it is time to discuss another passage from the scriptures that relates to homosexuality. Today I want to cover Matthew 19:3-12 mainly because of the discussion about whether or not people are born homosexual as well as whether it is “natural” or against nature. it is vital to have this discussion as we move into the New Testament verses regarding same sex relations.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

The context of this section is marriage and divorce, let’s start with that. Jesus is approached by the Pharisees about whether or not the divorce practices of the day were lawful. Jesus answers  by telling them what God said to Adam and Eve. The Pharisees are unsatisfied with this answer and say, “But what about Moses?”  Jesus tells them that the law of Moses in regard to divorce were given because of the hardness of people’s hearts not because God wanted people to get divorced. Jesus has in essence brought marriage back to before the law and said the ideal is for people to get married, become one and not to separate and return to the homes of their families. Once again, Jesus makes it about the law of love.

Now the disciples decide to get involved in the conversation, they say, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” What comes next has always seemed really odd to me. Jesus starts talking about eunuchs! What do eunuchs have to do with it? Is Jesus just changing the subject or what? No, he isn’t changing the subject he is just expanding it to include the sexual minorities of the day. This appears to be a list of the people who should not marry members of the opposite sex. So the disciples say to Jesus, “this is hard, maybe its better for men and women not to get married” and Jesus says, “No, this is hard but the reason not to marry isn’t because it is difficult but rather is because of: how one was born, something that was done to them, or their choice not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom.”  These three groups are listed as: #1. “eunuchs who have been so from birth”, #2. “eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men” and #3. “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”.

Ok, now let’s address these three groups in reverse order.
#3. “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” – This phrase is also translated as, “others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven”, “some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven”, and “others have decided to be celibate because of the kingdom of heaven”. It seems clear that these are people who have decided to abstain from sex with women for the sake of the Kingdom.

#2. “eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men” – This phrase referred to castrated males. This was a very common practice and was frequently done “early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences” and was “carried out on the soon-to-be eunuch without his consent in order that he might perform a specific social function.”

#1. “eunuchs who have been so from birth” –  AHA!!! Now we get to brass tacks! What exactly does this mean? Some say it means that Jesus is acknowledging that men can be born homosexual and some say that Jesus is merely referring to people who are born without testicles or who are impotent.

According to the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon, the Hebrew word for eunuch is saris and its derivatives. Saris is believed to be an Assyrian loan word. A secondary meaning of saris, from the Hebrew, is to castrate but Jesus speaks with divine authority when He teaches that not all eunuchs are castrated, Matthew 19:12. According to Jesus, some eunuchs are born that way, in distinction from a man who has been physically castrated.

Prominent evangelical professor, Dr. Robert Gagnon who believes all homosexual practice is sinful, put it this way,

Probably “born eunuchs” in the ancient world did include people homosexually inclined, which incidentally puts to the lie the oft-repeated claim that the ancient world could not even conceive of persons that were congenitally influenced toward exclusive same-sex attractions…

John J. McNeil, is a Jesuit Priest and also earned his PhD in Philosophy from Louvain University in Belgium asserts,

The first category, those born as eunuchs, is the closest description we have in the bible of what we understand today as a person with a homosexual orientation.

In the book, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Jack Rogers makes some very insightful points about this passage.

Many commentaries focus on the discussion about divorce and miss the larger point of the passage. But look carefully: Jesus is asked a question about heterosexual marriage and divorce and immediately broadens the conversation to acknowledge three different types of sexual minorities in that culture…That is stunning, especially given that “the eunuch was persona non grata both socially and religiously” in that culture.

It is clear that Jesus did not see humanity as universally heterosexual.  Jesus recognized and acknowledged many types of sexual difference–even in a society in which such difference would have been downplayed, hidden, or even punished.

…the text which immediately precedes Jesus’ discussion of eunuchs, Jesus stands up for women. As Boheche observes, “Jesus counsels mutuality between husband and wife, rather than affirming the traditional laws of divorce which favored the husband.” And in the text which immediately follows our text, Jesus blesses the little children, another group who would have been largely ignored at the time.

Rogers also ties this passage to the story of Philip and Ethopian eunuch. He makes several good points here as well. First that an “angel of the Lord” directed Phillip to go down the road that led him to the encounter. Then the Holy Spirit directed him again to, “Go over to the chariot and join it.” He goes on to point out that this eunuch was the first Gentile to be baptized, and he was not just a Gentile but was a foreigner of a different race and ethnicity who also belonged to a sexual minority who was not fully welcome in the worship community. His baptism signaled a seismic shift in who was allowed to be a part of God’s Kingdom (The True Magic Kingdom).

It is also significant that the Eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah. Theodore Jennings Jr., professor of biblical and constructive theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, discusses this fact extensively. He makes the point, “The Isaiah being read by the eunuch is the same prophet who specifically includes eunuchs in the divine dispensation.” Let’s look at the passage from Isaiah that the eunuch was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” (Isa. 53:8)

Nancy Wilson of the Metropolitan Community Church says,

The term ‘cut off’ is a reference to the curse that was placed on anyone that was exiled, executed by capital punishment, or did not reproduce. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading a prophesy of a Messiah with whom he could identify!”

Isaiah is also significant because it reverses previous prohibitions against eunuchs in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In Isaiah 56:4-5 it says:

For thus says the LORD:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,

I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

The Eunuch had been visiting the temple in Jerusalem to worship, he was reading his own copy of the book of Isaiah (which would have been very rare) so it is quite likely he was aware of this text.
He was a man of faith and God honored it. The Holy Spirit could have chosen anyone to be the first Gentile convert and the Holy Spirit chose an black, African, sexual minority and his story was a picture of faith and commitment that was met with radical grace and inclusiveness.

In these two passages along with the parable of the good Samaritan we see God over and over expand the story. First he includes a hated, alien, outcast, “half-breed” Samaritan who exemplifies what it means to love your neighbor. Then he takes a question about heterosexual marriage and divorce and expands the conversation to include sexual minorities. Finally, the Holy Spirit guides Phillip to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch! In all three cases the formerly marginalized are welcomed and honored just as they are. That is the good news. Jesus welcomes the outcast, the marginalized, all races, all peoples, women, children, the disabled, the poor, the widow and even sexual minorities. The trajectory of scripture moves toward redemption. Isaiah makes it clear that eunuchs are being included in the Kingdom and Jesus makes it clear that there are “born eunuchs”; People whose natural attraction is not toward the opposite sex. From these passages we can conclude that at the very least, that Jesus was aware of sexual minorities, he didn’t condemn them, and that we are to welcome them into our worship communities.

a Better way to read the Bible?

I am out of town this week and am reblogging some favorite stuff from recent weeks while I spend time with my family at the happiest place on earth! See you on the other side.

 

Today’s installment comes to you from Bo Sanders and was originally posted on 3/9/12.

 

A better way to read (read) Admittedly, this is not how I learned to read the Bible. In fact, I’m not sure that I learned to read the Bible at all. I just read it. I read it like you would read anything else. I just read it and took it at it’s word. It was there in black and white.

However, there were some things about the Bible that made it different than everything else I read: it didn’t have a single author (or even a stated author for many of it’s ‘books’), it was written thousands of years earlier, and it was not written in English – it was translated.

None of that is a problem necessarily. I still got the main point of the book (I think) and was able to pick up on most of its important themes (at least they were important to me). In fact, the more general my reading and the more generic my intent, the better that way of reading works.

The problem comes when you want to either make bigger and broader claims bases on Scripture or the more narrow and specific you want to get.

For instance, if you want to make a big claim about how the universe works or the fate of every human soul throughout history, you end up doing something with the text that it may be unsustainable under further review. If you want to get specific and say that this word in the original text says ____ and therefore women can not ______ , or ministers must ______ … using the text that way may become an issue.

I put forward an idea in my previous post that gives us permission to update, revisit, and re-engage the texts of scripture based on two things:

  1. we do not have a pre-modern mind and therefore have a very different relationship to story, text, idea, and experience than people of the pre-modern world.
  2. we live in a world that is so different, has changed so much, has gone through such radical and traumatic experiences that we would be blind not to acknowledge and account for it.

In my clearest language: I am advocating for a more sophisticated way of reading the Bible and to move away from a simple reading. Like I said at the beginning, I was not taught to read the Bible, I just read it – or so I thought. I had to get rid of the illusion that I was ONLY reading. It is a simply awakening and only requires one thing to get started! You must admit that you are translating when you read. You are not simply reading , you are doing something else – even if it subconsciously  or unknowingly. There is a hermeneutic (way of reading) that is being employed by all of us and we have to come to terms with the idea that our way of reading is not (and can not be) the same way of reading as the ancients did.

Here are four advantages to awakening to the presence of interpretation:

  • We can read the creation stories in Genesis and call God ‘creator’ without discounting or disregarding contemporary science (and especially emergence theory).
  • We can take the story of Jonah or Job and recognize that they are more like movie scripts or plays than they are newspaper reports and not get bogged down in the details.
  • We can believe that the incarnate Jesus calmed a storm (the miraculous) without making the leap that God sent Hurricane Irene or directs tornadoes.
  • We can see that the Book of Revelation is a political commentary (prophetic imagination) about the first century C.E.  and not an exacting prediction about the end of the world.

I believe this to be a better way to read the Bible. It is both more authentic to the text and has more integrity in the world that has developed since the text was written. We are not limited to only the physics and metaphysics of antiquity but we also are not abandoning the whole project and going out on our own. We are providing continuity with the historic trajectory and honoring the tradition.

You can call this a ‘new kind of christianity‘ if you want, or something else, but it is a way a being in the world that honors Christ and engages the world as it actually is. It allows us to believe in miracles without being superstitiously ‘super’natural.  It lets us listen to the wisdom of the ancients without being stuck to their ‘three-tiered’ universe. It provides a dynamic engagement between the classic themes and the world we find ourselves in.