4

Romans 1:26-27 reads:

For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (NET)

This text seems to focus on the passion and lust aspect, therefore implying that the focus of the issue is getting carried away in passion. Furthermore, I am interested in the plurality and numerology of the Greek. Does this text have anything which indicates whether this is referring to orgies.

In short, exactly what does "natural relations" mean here?

  • How does it focus on passion and lust? Do you simply mean emotions? Everything I read here is about action. It's exchanging, abandoning, committing shameless acts. So the phrase about giving them up to their passions is commenting on what led to their acts. As does the inflamed in their passions phrase unless it is an euphemistic phrase (or bit of both). But I don't see natural or unnatural relations as the passions themselves but as actions as a result of those passions. Since it seems implicit that one could be inflamed with passion for a woman, which, in context, would be considered natural – Joshua Apr 22 '15 at 17:11
  • It focuses on that in this manner "gave them over to dishonorable passions" and "men ... and were inflamed in their passions for one another." Some translations say "shameful lusts." The fact that it mentions the motivation at all seems to suggest that the act in and of itself isn't the problem, but the motivation for the action. If it were simply the act which was wrong and not the reason for the act, why would the author comment on the motivation for said act at all? Shouldn't the wrongness of the act be self-evident if the problem is the act itself and thus the motivational note needless? – James Shewey Apr 22 '15 at 17:21
  • Can the word passions be translated as "emotion" or would a different greek word be better for that? Would being inflamed with passion and lust for a woman be natural? Or is this text saying that men were inflamed with passion for multiple partners simultaniously? Homosexuality wasn't all that un-natural in that culture considering the practice of pederasty. Some even think Jesus may have blessed a partnered [Gay man].(hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/17215/4150) – James Shewey Apr 22 '15 at 17:27
  • I agree the passions and lusts were, in this case, wrong. But your question was about unnatural relations. I'm saying the unnatural/natural relations parts of the text seem to be grammatically tied to actions, not the passions. – Joshua Apr 22 '15 at 17:27
  • When one puts these verses in the context of v24 it is clear that the result is that they dishonour 'their bodies', why not just take the words as they read, that God has given them up to their desire rather then restraining them from indulging, and so they indulge (action). – Jonathan Chell Apr 22 '15 at 17:43
5

Coital vs. Non-Coital Sex: Rom.1:26-27 in Context

Firstly, ‘natural relations’ is a modern, dynamic translation, and its technical meaning in theological circles may mislead. So let’s start with the usual literal translation of φυσικὴν χρῆσιν, or “natural use” (e.g. KJV, Young, Darby, Webster) in v.26b:

“Females exchanged the natural use into that which is against nature …”

In Paul’s usage, φυσικὴν (physikos, ‘natural’) was not a moral or legal category but described something that was culturally typical, conventional, or biological, like short hair on men (1Cor.11:14), being uncircumcised (Rom.2:27), or being born a Jew (Gal.2:15). Even God worked ‘against nature’, according to Paul, in grafting Gentiles into the Jewish branch of salvation (Rom.11:21-24), so ‘unnatural’ was not automatically negative. And χρῆσιν (chrēsis, ‘use’), though appearing only in these two verses in the NT, is well attested as meaning ‘employment, use (made of a thing)’. It does not mean ‘relations’. ‘Natural use’ is a correct, literal translation.

Unfortunately for contemporary readers, the literal translation is ambiguous because Paul did not indicate here the thing being used. The females exchanged the natural use of something for the unnatural, but it’s unclear what.

Romans 1:18-32

Widening the view, in Romans 1 Paul would describe why God’s wrath against Gentile wickedness was just, and in chapter 2 he would turn the tables on Jewish readers and remind them that they had done the same wicked things. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,” he would conclude, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God ...” and can therefore also be justified by God’s grace (3:22-24).

Paul’s first task in this evangelistic effort, then, was to draw Jewish readers in with a clear and sure indictment of Gentile wickedness. In a tightly ordered paragraph (Rom.1:18-32) he recounted the familiar story of a people who knew the truth about God by observation of creation but turned away: “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (v.21). He illustrated this pagan rejection with three carefully crafted examples; in outline:

  1. They exchanged the glory of God for idols modeled after earthly creatures, so God gave them up to their corrupted hearts and degraded bodies (vv.22-24).
  2. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie by worshiping their idols rather than the eternal God, so God gave them up to their degraded desire (vv.25-26a).
  3. Females exchanged the ‘natural use for the unnatural’ – and males did the same – they did not think fit to keep the knowledge of God, so God gave them up to an unfit mind, to do what ought not to be done (vv.26b-28).

There followed a long list of destructive behaviors, further evidence of pagan rebellion (vv.29-32).

So within Paul’s argument, the gender-related, unnatural exchanges of vv.26b-28 are the third and final ‘wave’ of cause and effect – to borrow Brendan Byrne’s helpful visual [n.1] – describing pagan idolatry. This careful construction is often lost on contemporary readers, the repetition and parallelism obscured by verse notations, paragraph formatting, and the unfamiliar association of the gender exchanges to idol-making and idol-worship.

Paul’s original readers faced no such difficulty. The theme and vocabulary were familiar – e.g. Ps.106:19-23, Ps.81:11-12, and 2Kgs.17:16-18 – and the paragraph itself closely resembled Wisdom of Solomon 13-14. Paul’s tsunami conclusion mimics Wisdom 14:22-27 (RSV):

Afterward it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife due to ignorance, and they call such great evils peace. For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs, they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery, and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, pollution of souls, sex perversion, disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery. For the worship of idols not to be named is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.

Paul likely borrowed from the popular tradition to draw Jewish readers in.[n.2] And in his more formal structure, Wisdom’s sprawling descriptions of idolatry were distilled into three succinct exchanges: idol-making, idol-worship, and the ‘unnatural use’.

Gender-Related Exchanges of ‘Natural Use’

So the female exchange of ‘natural use’ in v.26b, though somewhat unclear on its own, was related by Paul’s strong rhetorical structure to idolatry. It was also connected, ‘likewise’, to a male exchange in v.27:

“… and in the same way also the males, having abandoned the natural use of the female, burned in their desire toward each other, males working shamefully with males and receiving in return the payment befitting their error …”

Together the female and male exchanges of the third wave are then summarized: “they did not think fit to keep the knowledge of God ...” And the wave then crests into its effects: “... so God gave them up to an unfit mind, to do what ought not to be done” (v.28).

So the males of v.27 exchanged ‘natural use’ in “the same way” (ὁμοίως) as the females of v.26b. Here, helpfully, Paul specified that the males abandoned the ‘natural use of the female’. And he continued: the males lusted instead after other males, earning (κατεργαζόμενοι) both the disgrace (ἀσχημοσύνην) and wages (ἀντιμισθίαν)[n.3] due them. The language of sexual lust, exchange, and transaction is reinforced, strongly suggesting prostitution.

Unnatural Sexuality

The early church fathers Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius, and Augustine all understood the unnatural act as being non-coital intercourse, that is, oral or anal sex.[n.4] They understood ‘natural use of the female’ in v.27 as referring to penile/vaginal intercourse, and they read that back, ‘likewise’, into v.26b: the females exchanged natural, coital intercourse (with men) for unnatural, non-coital intercourse (with men); and the males, in the same way, exchanged natural, coital intercourse with women for non-coital intercourse with other men.

By this reading only the male exchange was homosexual – the church fathers did not read ‘homosexual’ back into the previous verse but ‘non-coital intercourse’. James Olthuis notes, “Paul does not say ‘women with women’ (as he says ‘men with men’)” in the next verse.[n.5] This is critical because without a specific indication that the females exchanged male for female sex partners, Paul’s original audience would not have understood this thin phrase as referring to lesbianism. There is no example in antiquity in which female homosexuality is described as counterpart to male homosexuality (as some suggest here). Lesbianism was seldom mentioned in ancient literature, and it wasn’t even prohibited in the Hebrew Bible or rabbinic tradition. Introducing a new idea here, contrary to cultural expectation, would not have served Paul’s rhetorical purpose. James Miller concludes, “a homosexual reading of verse 26 is in no way warranted. The obvious partner for the woman in verse 26 is male and the relationship is heterosexual.”

The early church fathers’ reading is further validated by the suggestion of prostitution in which non-coital intercourse was a contraceptive method. As Miller explains,

In contrast to female homosexuality, “unnatural” heterosexual intercourse is widely discussed in Classical literature, often as a form of contraception. …. Among unnatural (non-coital) forms of heterosexual intercourse, oral and anal intercourse seem to dominate the literature and art. ... Though men enjoyed and encouraged alternative heterosexual activity with women, it should be noted that at least some women, most notably hetaerae and adulteresses, actively encouraged these practices.

For readers of Paul’s time, the third wave of sexual exchanges, including prostitution, described idolatry as directly and non-metaphorically as idol-making and idol-worship. As suggested in the passage from Wisdom above, many cults of the ancient Mediterranean incorporated sexuality, Strabo boasting that the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth once had over 1,000 courtesans. Some of the Greco-Roman mystery religions popular among women and some men celebrated an ecstatic, drunken frenzy acted-out in orgies, sexual hostility, rape, cross-dressing, gender role-reversal, head-shaving, and voluntary castration – all in the name of their deity.[n.6] The writer of Wisdom summarized: “The idea of making idols was the beginning of fornication (πορνεία, porneia), and the invention of them was the corruption of life” (Ws.14:12)

To be sure, ancient fertility cults employed male as well as female prostitutes.[n.7] OT writers called them qadeshim and qadeshoth (‘holy men’ and ‘holy women’) [n.8], and their service was specifically prohibited:

No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God to pay any vow, because the LORD your God detests them both” (Deut.23:17-18, NIV).

Despite these prohibitions, many Hebrew people adopted the pagan practices (Ps.106:34-39), including shrine or cult prostitution (e.g. 1Kgs.14:22-24, 15:11-14, 22:41-46; 2Kgs.23:4-25). James DeYoung concludes his study of the male qadeshim saying the biblical texts, in both Hebrew and Greek, described cult prostitution and homosexual practice.[n.9] Conservative scholar Robert Gagnon states that male cult prostitution was the most acceptable context for homosexual acts in the ancient Near East,[n.10] and he more pointedly admits, “Homosexual cult prostitution appears to have been the primary form in which homosexual intercourse was practiced in [ancient] Israel.”[n.11] In fact, I contend homosexual acts were not mentioned in the Bible in any other context.

Conclusion

While distasteful, this cultural background informs a proper understanding of Romans 1:26-28 in its fuller textual and historical context. I believe we can confidently agree with the early church fathers: ‘natural relations’ refers here to coital (penile/vaginal) intercourse. The ‘unnatural’ or non-coital sexual relations of these verses very likely refer to female heterosexual and male homosexual cultic prostitution which serves, in Paul’s rhetoric, as an obvious and superlative third example of the pagan idolatry of which Gentiles and Jews were both guilty. Paul’s judgement on this score is supported by Israelite history and echoes Jewish tradition, particularly the Book of Wisdom.

Reading ‘unnatural relations’ as homosexuality generally does not meet these standards. It strips the reference of its context of idolatry and prostitution – even its purpose in Paul’s larger argument as an obvious example of the same – and it runs against the known mainstream of literary and cultural expectation. It also fails to account for Paul’s rebuke to his Jewish readers that they are no better than the pagans because Jews had done the very same things (Rom.2:1) – the charge of lesbianism is not supported by Jewish scripture or history.
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Notes:

  1. Brendan Byrnes, SJ, Romans, Daniel J. Harrington, ed.; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996; p.64.
  2. Byrnes, p.65.
  3. Interestingly, the NIV translates the only other biblical occurrence of antimisthia as ‘fair exchange’ (2Cor.6:13). The root-word μισθὸν means ‘pay, wages or reward’. According to Brown, the anti- prefix may heighten the sense of transaction (Colin Brown, “Lytron”, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervon, 1986; p.197).
  4. James E. Miller, “The Practices of Romans 1:26: Homosexual or Heterosexual?,” Novum Testamentum XXXVII, January 1995; p.8.
  5. James Olthuis, “When is Sex Against Nature?”, An Ethos of Compassion and the Integrity of Creation, eds. Brian J. Walsh, Hendrik Hart, and Robert E. VanderVennen; Lanham: University Press of America, 1995; pp.188-205.
  6. Kroeger, Catherine. “The Apostle Paul and the Greco-Roman Cults of Women.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 30, no.1 (March 1987); pp.25-38.
  7. Yamauchi, Edwin M. “Cultic Prostitution: a Case Study in Cultural Diffusion,” Orient and Occident. Neukirchen-Vlnyn and Kevelaer: Butzon and Bercker. 1973; pp. 213-222.
  8. Steven Barabas, “Baal,” The New International Dictionary of the Bible, eds. J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney; Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 1987; p.113. See Genesis 38:21 for the first biblical reference to the qadesh.
  9. James B. DeYoung, “The Contributions of the Septuagint to Biblical Sanctions Against Homosexuality”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 34/2 (June 1991) pp.157-177.
  10. Robert Gagnon, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: An Overview of Some Issues;” Leadership U, www.leaderu.com; retrieved June 6, 2007.
  11. Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics; Nashville: Abingdon, 2001; p.130.
  • This is a well thought out and thorough response. I noticed you reference Robert Gagnon's works at the end, but it's unclear where. I ask because I know that he rejects your conclusion and provides some compelling reasons for doing so. – P. TJ May 21 '17 at 4:41
  • Thanks, @P.TJ. Notes 9 and 10 just above provide the Gagnon sources. I think Gagnon's summary argument about the Jewish experience of homosexual acts is compelling (i.e. homosexual cult prostitution), and that's why I quote it above. I think this history is key to understanding how the biblical writers understood this issue. As to why Gagnon describes this context so neatly but then ignores it in his own exegesis, you'd have to ask him. – Schuh May 27 '17 at 4:35
  • You should read his larger work, The Bible and Homosexual Practice. He deals with this in more detail and argues that, though temple prostitution may be the most common place homosexual relations were found, it was not the only place and the scripture writers were, in fact, aware of the concept of monogamous same-sex relationships and reject them as well. – P. TJ May 28 '17 at 3:00
  • Excluding threatened gang rape (Gen.19, Jdg.19), the biblical writers only mention homosexual acts in the immediate context of cult prostitution. If they were aware of same-sex relationships, they didn't mention it, nor did they use the specific Greek vocabulary for it. I haven't seen Gagnon or read that tome recently, but he centers his thesis on Sodom, which most scholars reject as irrelevant. Even the NT writers considered Gen.19 to be about angels, not homosexuality. If you have specific sources to discuss further, let's move this to a chat room. Thanks for the discussion! – Schuh May 28 '17 at 5:02
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    "Lesbianism was seldom mentioned in ancient literature, and it wasn’t even prohibited in the Hebrew Bible or rabbinic tradition" so it's immoral for homosexual male relations but not female is your reading of the Pentateuch? And Paul says non-coital sex is bad for heterosexuals but not for homosexuals? Where did you pull 'cultic prostitution' from? So 'bedders of men,' lying 'with men as with women,' (clearly bare homosexuality of all stripes) mean only in the context of a cult? A lot of twisting going on here to please a lot of people. – Sola Gratia Jun 26 '18 at 19:27
7

First let's do a quick exercise: Forget all the discussion and simply read this without the missing word:

For their women exchanged ______ relations for those that are contrary to nature; v27 and the men likewise gave up ______ relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.

If you read it without the term "natural" you still easily get a sense for what Paul is saying. You can almost guess what the blank is. So we must define relations first and then find what makes it natural or unnatural.

The Language: Relations

Relations is translated from the Greek χρῆσις chrēsis and is understood as the sexual use by or of a woman. This is because of 1) female form 2) meaning of the root 3) sexual context in relation to women in both uses.

Its root form χράομαι chraomai can be understood as "use." This can be in the context of borrowing a loan or making use of anything from using the law to using wine.

In the context of Romans 1:26,27 it is women exchanging the natural use or function (of...?) and it is men giving up the natural use or function of women. The "use" or "function" being spoken of here is the use of women (or of "others") connected with passion, lust, and indecency strongly implying a sexual use.

The Context: Exchanging

There is a repeating theme in this section of Romans. Starting in 1:23 it repeatedly condemns the exchange of that which is holy and right, for that which is wicked and unrighteous. Emphasis added by me.

Rom 1:23 ESV [they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man..."

Rom 1:25 ESV "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie ..."

Rom 1:26 ESV "For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;"

So we can see from the context that this exchange is wrong and whatever is being exchanged is righteous and what it is being exchanged for is unrighteous. So we know that "relations contrary to nature" are wicked in God's eyes and that natural relations are right.

Natural Relations

So what are natural relations? v26 by itself may be a bit clear, but when we read v26 and v27 together they clarify each other.

v26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; v27 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.

A key here is they word "likewise" or ὁμοίως homoiōs meaning "likewise, equally, in the same way."

The way the men are giving up natural relations in v27 will inform us of how the women in v26 were exchanging natural relations.

The men were giving up natural relations with women and had passion for one another. The Greek shows us that that while "relations with women" is in the feminine form, "had passion for one another" is masculine. It is men having passion for other men. The next sentence confirms this in saying men committed shameless acts with men. The initial mention of passions in v26 is a bit open ended, but it is focused here. Let's not mix words. We are speaking of God giving them up to passions, women being "used," men exchanging the function of women, having passion for other men and those men acting indecently with each other. We are talking about sexual matters. The use of chresis (function) could be strongly argued to mean sexual intercourse, but at the least with the language of "inflamed" and "passions" (literal translation"craving") we are speaking of sexual desire and sexual acts following.

It is pretty clear what is going on in v27. Therefore, the women in v26 were exchanging natural relations with men and had passion for other women, just like the men gave up relations with women and had passion for other men.

Women acting sexually with women, men acting sexually with men. This is homosexuality.

Conclusion

Heterosexual acts are being called "natural" while the "against nature" (para nature) relations happening in these homosexual descriptions.

Natural relations or use is heterosexual, a man using a woman or woman using a man. Unnatural relations are homosexual.

So v26 could be read as "For their women exchanged heterosexual relations for those that are homosexual;" And v27 "Likewise the men gave up heterosexual relations with women..."

Comments

As I said at the start, you can almost guess meaning even without "natural/unnatural." I am not trying to be offensive but I have to conclude that interpretations that do not involve heterosexual and homosexual relations being compared as right and wrong is going out of the way, outside the simple reading of the text, to arrive at a different meaning. I hope to have shown, as evidenced within the text itself, that the the simple and traditional interpretation of this passage is all that is needed.

Historically, homosexuality is not new, it was very present in Roman times and is documented in the Old Testament as well. But just because something was common does not mean it becomes natural. Paul, with his Pharisaic training, would have understood Judaism's stance in the Old Testament, which condemns homosexuality. While Paul departs from Judaism's beliefs on who Jesus was and on civil laws such as diet and Sabbaths and "new moons", he never once in his writings departs from the basic understanding of moral right and wrong. Any further discussion on Paul's background and stance will involve other passages and will depart from this question's scope.

  • I totally agree with your conclusions; however, I recommend deleting your "Comments" section, as it will be considered 'prescriptive' and therefore outside of Site Directives. Just add it as a "comment", if a Mod wants to delete it, so be it, but you can make 'prescriptive' statements in comments without risking your answer being "closed". Thank you! – Tau Apr 23 '15 at 5:25
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    @Tau: Historically, a slight "prescription" at the end of a good exegesis is tolerated on BH.SE (i.e. the logical conclusion of the exegesis is...). Primarily, it is those answers that prescribe only or excessively that have been the issue. However, having said that, I do not even get any feel of "prescription" at all from the "Comments" section of the answer. It is more a "Summary" of what was argued, with an historical addendum about how homosexuality was viewed by OT law and NT Christians. That's my take. – ScottS Apr 23 '15 at 12:29
  • @ScottS My concern was that the answer, which was clearly based on the interpreting of the text, would be misconstrued by a discussion of homosexuality at large, which was not indicated in the OP's question and could be considered 'off-topic' by someone who may have an issue with the conclusion(I don't). One can certainly 'editorialize' with latitude in the "Comment" section; albeit Mods have the ability to delete said comments. An answer takes the risk of being closed if it goes beyond the OP's question with unsupported statements; that's what I'm trying to avoid. – Tau Apr 23 '15 at 13:11
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    I think you analysis is very good, but without the comment, it would be an incomplete answer. I respect a differing viewpoint, but here is my critique of the Comments: First, you state "Historically, homosexuality is not new, it was very present in Roman times and is documented in the Old Testament as well. But just because something was common does not mean it becomes natural." The flip side of that last sentence is that we do not necessarily have a basis to believe that it isn't considered natural. I'd really like to see argument unpacked more thoroughly with citations and support. – James Shewey Apr 23 '15 at 15:35
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    You argue that Paul had a Jewish background with Pharisaic training that would have understood homosexuality it in its Old Testament context, (which condemns homosexuality and would see it as unnatural) however Paul had a pretty radical divergence from his former viewpoints in Acts 9 and often argues against the continuance of the law. Furthermore, his audience included Gentiles in Rome, and they might have considered it natrual as they were not Pharisees. I would expect to see some exposition about why this is unnatrual considering his audience. – James Shewey Apr 23 '15 at 15:35
-1

Romans 1:18-28 (DRB)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice: 19 Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable. 21 Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. 23 And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of fourfooted beasts, and of creeping things.

24 Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonour their own bodies among themselves. 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. 27 And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error. 28 And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient;

A few things are evident which preclude the 'homosexuality is OK if it isn't a cultic sex ritual' interpretation of modernists:

  • 'Men with men' and 'women leaving the natural use [being in the context of sexual relations: which means penile-vaginal intercourse with a male]' are redundant and out of place in the reading which says the 'burning in lust' is the focus, and not the 'one toward the other,' 'men with men.'

  • What are the "shameful affections" against nature, id between practicing homosexuals and cultic practising homosexuals the kind of affection is not different?

  • It deliberately ignores that St. Paul condemns the same as Leviticus does without qualification as Leviticus also does:

Leviticus 20:13 (DRB)

If any one lie with a man [κοιμηθή μετά άρσενος—shall have bedded a man] as with a woman, both have committed an abomination, let them be put to death: their blood be upon them.

1 Corinthians 6:9 (DRB)

Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind [ἀρσενοκοῖται—bedders of men], ...


In summary, natural use for a woman is contrasted with: "in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men" which means natural use is, unsurprisingly, sex the outcome of which produces offspring, and unnatural sex anything else.

  • The reason 1 Corinthians 6:9 is "deliberately" ignored is that it is a different passage with a different interpretative context and is itself weak in supporting this interpretive conclusion. Levitical law was it too has considerations - and may also have been connected to idolatry. We must consider the possibility that Paul did not intend this passage to be interpreted in light of the other two (as well as the possibility that he did). – James Shewey Jun 26 '18 at 23:02
  • "Shameful affections" is also not the most accurate translation - "shameful lusts" is moreso. In the context of Paul's theology of the natural being that which is balanced and in moderation, what this passage would instead say is that God gave them over to their shameful excesses to be consumed and destroyed by them. This is true and not at all incongruent with the passage even if we do conclude a condemnation of homosexuality. – James Shewey Jun 26 '18 at 23:07
  • I completely concur with Joshua's answer, which is rather conclusive in that when one removes the description of the actions condemned (unnatural) their meaning is rather incontestible. Notice who are the ones importing qualifications non-existent in the context itself.. Also, 'natural use of the woman' clearly refers to sexual intercourse with a woman, directly contrasted with men going to other's of the same sex instead. It's not about 'societly accepted' intercourse. Paul isn't there to promite societal standards, but God's. Ars. And Mala. who said are related? – Sola Gratia Jun 27 '18 at 12:04
  • You also failed to include Paul's use of Leviticus as pointed out above as a possible origin for his newly coined term 'man-bedder' in your list. – Sola Gratia Jun 27 '18 at 12:05

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