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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?

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    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
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 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? Commented Apr 22, 2015 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) Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 17:27
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    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). Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 17:43
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    Men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men . . This can only mean one thing. And since the Apostle says previously likewise also the men then he was saying the same thing, previously, of the women. I don't think there is any valid question to answer, here.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 22:24

12 Answers 12

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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.
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  • 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
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 4:41
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    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
    Commented May 28, 2017 at 3:00
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    I'm not trying to debate such a complex topic in the comment section. But I will say that your claim is certainly up for debate and there are a number of scholars who disagree, including critical scholars who argue the Bible most certainly does condemn all homosexuality and that we therefore ought to condemn the Bible. Gagnon certainly doesn't accept the assertion that the bible only mentions homosexual acts in the context of cult prostitution and he covers a lot more than Sodom in his 700+ pages on the topic.
    – P. TJ
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 2:09
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    Schuh I have to say I don't appreciate it when I reference legitimate scholars and am then accused of either deceit or ignorance. Since you have doubts, read it for yourself: William Loader, “Same-sex Relationships: A 1st Century perspective,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 70, no. 1 (2014), 1-9, dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2114. You will see that Loader argues the Bible condemns all homosexual behavior and that the portions where it does so should be rejected as no longer relevant.
    – P. TJ
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 20:12
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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. Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 19:27
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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.

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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
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 12:29
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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. Commented Apr 23, 2015 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. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:35
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    Yes but Jesus supported the moral laws of the OT and even clarified that they extended into thoughts and intentions of matters of lust. It would seem inconsistent with Jesus ministry and Paul's own words against the Corinthians for him to suddenly condone sexual conduct that Judaism condemned. As I said I'll look into expanding that section.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:14
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    @JamesShewey 1) Levirite marriage is not a moral law. 2) every person Jesus healed and blessed was a sinner with their own struggles with various sins, just like the rest of us. You are either implying that Jesus was condoning all their sins as well as homosexuality, or you are implying that homosexuality is somehow more terrible a sin than others and Jesus would not be able to forgive him. I'm not sure which implication is worse. The more we write the more I'm reconsidering expanding historical part, for I fear it involves interpreting other passages and goes beyond just this question.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 16:53
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I would bet a great sum of money (I jest; I wouldn't bet as a Christian) that St. Paul was reading Wisdom shortly before writing Romans, since the crossover of subject matter, themes, and so forth, are far too similar to be 'coincidence.'

Wisdom 15:7 (DRB) The potter also tempering soft earth, with labour fashioneth every vessel for our service, and of the same clay he maketh both vessels that are for clean uses, and likewise such as serve to the contrary: but what is the use of these vessels, the potter is the judge.

Wisdom 12:12 (DRB) For who shall say to thee: What hast thou done? or who shall withstand thy judgment? or who shall come before thee to be a revenger of wicked men? or who shall accuse thee, if the nations perish, which thou hast made?

Romans 9:19-21 (DRB) Thou wilt say therefore to me: Why doth he then find fault? for who resisteth his will? 20 O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Or hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?


Wisdom 13:5, 8-9 (DRB) For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby. .. 8 But then again they are not to be pardoned. 9 For if they were able to know so much as to make a judgment of the world: how did they not more easily find out the Lord thereof?

Romans 1:19-20 (DRB) 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.


Wisdom 14:12 (DRB) For the beginning of fornication is the devising of idols: and the invention of them is the corruption of life.

Romans 1:23-27 (DRB) 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. 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.


Wisdom 14:22-26 (DRB) And it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but whereas they lived in a great war of ignorance, they call so many and so great evils peace. 23 For either they sacrifice their own children, or use hidden sacrifices, or keep watches full of madness, 24 So that now they neither keep life, nor marriage undefiled, but one killeth another through envy, or grieveth him by adultery: 25 And all things are mingled together, blood, murder, theft and dissimulation, corruption and unfaithfulness, tumults and perjury, disquieting of the good, 26 Forgetfulness of God, defiling of souls, changing of nature, disorder in marriage, and the irregularity of adultery and uncleaness.

Romans 1:28-32 (DRB) 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; 29 Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, 30 Detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. 32 Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.

Etc.

As with Wisdom, St. Paul only mentions sexual immorality in general, not 'prostitution.'

This has nothing to do with prostitution. At least, St. Paul doesn't. He doesn't include this in his Letter when he condemned homosexual activity. Nor did homosexuality not exist outside of prostitution or pederasty. And to somehow expect St. Paul would retract the moral prohibition of homosexual activity contained in the Old Testament is strange. Sexual activity with those of the other sex isn't a 'dietary law.' And in addition, he reiterates Leviticus in saying that αρσενοκοιται (men who lie sexually with men) will not enter heaven.

He only mentions or writes of sexual immorality/fornication which He here identifies as women or men lusting after those of their own sex as opposed to "the natural," which is of course, "in the beginning God created them male and female," which if you find yourself in a predicament of lacking attraction to women, or having it for men, should not be 'emprovising' with—male and female anatomy allows for intercourse to the creation of offspring: not so homosexual activity, which lacks procreative value altogether and leaves you with basically just lust.

I'm going to be respectful and say that claiming specifically women are exempt from the immorality of homosexual activity is absurd.

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  • Yet, you must admit that Paul, when speaking of shameful acts adresses men only. There must be reason for it. Another thing - if lesbianism was not condemned in OT, which served as moral guide for Jews, then that must mean something. Please read my notes in updated question, especially last sentence. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 16:38
  • No, it's not necessarily significant, since it doesn't deviate from the norm: the Old and NT view women in terms of men, not so much as 'separate' entities (e.g., "a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh"). As such, all of the laws given are stated in terms of 'he who' or 'if a man,' but which clearly apply to both—unless clearly indicated otherwise. E.g. John 3:36 ("He who believes in the Son has eternal life.."), Mark 8:37 ("..what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"), Luke 14:11 ("..he that humbles himself shall be exalted"). Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 17:49
  • You speak truth, but in Leviticus 18:22-23 (Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion) it is written about condemnation of male having sex with another male, thus it's directed to men only, it's clear from nature. Later we have a passage about animals, if you are right, then why it speaks to both men and women? Interesting thing, these verses are right under each other. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 18:02
  • 1
    I guess we are at a point where if "Men lying with men, instead of women, is an abomination, that's why I'm wiping out these pagan nations" isn't sufficiently clear for you, I am really at a struggle as to what you expect the Bible to say. 'Men, don't murder. Women, you shall not murder?' To be clear, this logic necessitates that you believe it is not forbidden for a man to be mounted by an animal, since for the man it says "you shall not give your seed to an animal, defiling yourself with it." Whereas for women it says, you shall not stand before an animal to copulate with it." Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:02
  • If "it's clear from nature" is important, why is the incompatibility of male-on-male and female-on-female genitalia, and the purpose of intercourse to begin with, being completely ignored? We're not saying doing vaguely sexual activities is intercourse, or assumed to be licit, are we? Where does it stop? Can God say sodomy is wrong, for example? Can people view it as repulsive and immoral? If not, why not? What are the defined protected modes of 'sex'ual activity so I know which not to be of the opinion they are immoral? I think we need to take a fresh read of the actual words. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:09
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But how worshiping gods can lead to homosexuality?

Paul states in other letters that the forgetting of divine truth results in the expression of sensual passion. So this is something he (as well as I myself) believed regarding human nature. Proof:

"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do with their minds emptied [of the truth]. They are darkened in their thinking, separated from the life of God because of this [willful] ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts [against the truth], who, when once they have lost all sensitivity [for what is right – the truth], have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. This is not how you learned to follow Christ." (Ephesians 4:17-20)

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'Unnatural sexual relations' for women

Lesbianism would not have been a concern for men in such a patriarchal society. The intimate relations of women, whether sexual or simply conversation, carried with it negligible power at the time: a woman's pleasure (within a marriage or not) was hardly a man's concern. There appears to be no evidence anywhere else in the bible to suggest that 'unnatural' as opposed to 'natural sexual relations' refers specifically to lesbianism or same-sex relations between women.

Nor would it likely refer to prostitution, which would have been considered a 'natural' service for men to have available - although these women had no standing in society whatsoever, they were still considered to be performing 'natural' sexual relations, as men availing themselves of this service has not deemed 'unnatural', 'perversion', 'abomination', or similar. Becoming a 'shrine prostitute' is expressly forbidden for Israelites (Deuteronomy 27:13), but foreigners or slaves becoming one is apparently not prevented, nor is making use of them expressly forbidden.

In exploring other biblical references that might condemn women for 'unnatural' sexual relations, one that comes up specifically is bestiality, which directly follows the law against (male) homosexuality:

“‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.'" Leviticus 18: 22-23

Men 'defile' themselves (suggesting impurity), whereas women commit a 'perversion' (a sexual act considered abnormal or unacceptable). Separate punishments for men and women are detailed later:

“‘If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal.

“‘If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.'" Leviticus 20:15-16

It seems that while a man must perform the act to attract a death penalty, a woman need only approach an animal - suggesting that she can be accused of bestiality and put to death without even performing the act itself (one would imagine if her husband, betrothed, father or brother thought to make the association).

Not religious prostitution in this context

"But how worshiping gods can lead to homosexuality? I believe it must mean religious prostitution, then it makes perfect sense."

The term 'prostitution' has indeed been used figuratively in specific reference to worshipping idols (Leviticus 20), but to draw this parallel here would be reading religious 'prostitution' in a figurative sense into the text - whereas it specifically refers to 'sexual relations'.

Paul's Letter to the Romans

Paul appears in this letter to be specifically addressing the Roman church community's judgement of the Greeks, and later their misunderstanding of the significance of Jewish law. At the time this letter was written, Paul was on his third visit to the Greek growth centres of Christianity, but had yet to visit Rome. His introduction suggests that he may be explaining his neglect of this particular growth centre for the early church:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians [non-Greeks], both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1: 8-17

Paul's connection between idolatry and sins of the flesh

He then goes on to makes a connection between idolatry and these many and varied sins of the flesh suggesting that one act may inevitably lead to the other. But he also points out that both the society he addresses (Romans) and 'them' who are judged (ie. Greeks), by practising idolatry, have so far not seen fit to acknowledge God, who has therefore 'given them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done'.

It may be significant to note that most documented instances of bestiality involving women around the time the NT was written were found to be either ritualistic or involved the worship of gods, including the Greek legends of women performing sexual relations with 'gods' in animal form, eg. swan, bull, etc). Likewise, homosexual relations were found to be an accepted norm in Greek society at the time. The young male nude was worshipped in Greece as a symbol of perfection, and adolescent boys were regularly 'courted' to submit to an elder sexually in exchange for knowledge.

So this initial description of 'shameful lusts' may be attributed specifically to Greek society, setting 'them' apart in judgement by the Romans. But the next section describes sin that the Romans certainly cannot declare themselves free from in their own society:

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 1:26-32

Paul makes continual reference later in this letter to the dual influences of the flesh and the spirit on our actions:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

For Paul, either we are striving to live by the spirit - rejecting sin as 'what the flesh desires' - or we are living by the flesh, ruled by sin (or by the law which cannot defeat sin) and by death.

He leads into the dichotomy in this first chapter: either we strive to be wholly committed to God and life in the spirit, rejecting the worship of idols, or we turn our face from God and are thereby 'given over' to be commanded by the flesh instead of by the spirit.

At the start of the second chapter, therefore, Paul makes it clear that those he addresses, who apparently judge 'someone else' (ie. the Greeks) by their 'shameful lusts', do the same things (sin in the flesh) and are given over to be ruled by sin because they also practise idolatry.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:1-4

Here, Paul suggests that worshipping idols - tantamount to rejecting God - is a first step towards being ruled by sin. So those who worship idols and yet pass judgement on others who commit any of these sins have essentially turned away from God - ie. done the same thing as those sinners (the Greeks) whom they apparently judge.

Conclusion

While there is no evidence to support the interpretation of 'unnatural sexual relations' performed by women to specifically mean either lesbianism or prostitution, there are suggestions in Jewish law that it may in fact mean bestiality - considered a perversion in women (while only impure in men).

Paul's connection between worshipping idols and these specific 'shameful lusts' of bestiality by women and homosexuality by men is supported by historical evidence of both acts in connection with Greek mythology and customs.

While the passage agrees with the condemnation of these acts according to Jewish law, Paul's intention is not to reiterate these laws, but to point out that the Romans and those they judge for these 'shameful lusts' are in fact both in need of repentance.

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  • Finally someone who understood a question. Thanks, that's what I wanted. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 5:52
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I think the answer lies within the verse (bold type):-

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

"In the same way" seems to impliy that men follow the wrong actions of women. So as men had sexual relations with other men thus in seems to say the women had sex with other women.

As Paul aslo penned the following which supports for the above:-

1 Cor. 6:9.

"Don’t you know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor abusers of themselves as women, nor homosexuals,..."-https://afaithfulversion.org/1-corinthians-6/

Then the same must apply to lesbianism.

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  • In 1 Corinthians 6:9 we have ἀρσενοκοίτης, which means 'one who lies with a male as with a female'. You made a fragment bold, my turn - men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. These men were doing all the sins of women mentioned, but they had one more, that is homosexuality. Think about OT, it had to contain all moral guides necessary for salvation, that means, from OT rules alone we may be just, OT rules are full. You won't find a condemnation of lesbianism there, while male homosexuality is condemned clearly. Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 18:13
  • I will go further, Romans 2:14-15. If the Law is written in the hearts of men, and conscience guides them to good, then consider one thing. Enormous amount of men like to see two women together, but they are disgusted with two males. A lot of women would want to have sex with other woman. This led me to thinking that lesbianism is natural and the Bible suggests so. It does not condemn polygyny and it does not condemn women having sex with other women, and these two things fit together well. Man with many wives, like David, can father many children, a woman with many husands cannot. Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 18:28
  • 1
    Genesis KJV 13:13 “But the men of Sodom [were] wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” From dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/sodomite “Meaning of “sodomite” in English – sodomite noun UK /ˈsɒd.ə.maɪt/ US /ˈsɑː.də.maɪt/ a word, usually used as an insult, for a person who practises sodomy(= anal sex):.” As all the males & females were also put to death by God in Sodom as “wicked” then its reasonable to condlude the both sexes practcied same sex relations which God was not going to totarate so put them to death of thier wickedness.
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 14:14
  • How was anal sex a Sodom's sin? Where is it written? You used word homosexuals in place of arsenokoites and now sodomite? How can you prove evidence from ancient text using modern dictionaries? People of Sodom were wicked in many ways, and they got destroyed, not because of sexual sins alone, but of all kinds of sins. Show me evidence from Scripture, I did that, you did not respond to any of my arguments. Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 17:16
  • @Konrad Scipura Genesis 19:4, 5 NIV "But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the MEN from every part of the city of SODOM—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the MEN who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have SEX WITH THEM.”
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 18:11
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The parallelism in the sentence of unnatural relationships of on the one hand between men and on the other hand between women is clear. Thus, with consideration of this logic, if the unnaturalness in case of men is conditioned by their having sex with each other, then it is only natural to interpret the unnaturalness of women's relationship by the same token of having sexual relationship with each other. Thus, yes, lesbianism is implied here, unless one wishes to twist the text at will.

Now, the temple prostitutes are no different from any other prostitutes with regard of Jewish religion's censuring of adultery; thus, a man could commit a natural adulterous act with both a temple prostitute and a street prostitute, for "natural" here does not mean non-sinful, but simply heterosexual. Therefore, the temple prostitution is hardly implied in the term of "unnatural" relationships.

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The original question is framed as a proposal for a solution to the following interesting question:

"...But how [does] worshiping [false] gods can [sic] lead to homosexuality?..."

The original question then proposes that perhaps idolatrous rites involving temple prostitution might be what Paul is saying corrupted relations between men and women:

"...I believe it must mean religious prostitution, then it makes perfect sense..."

In defense of this explanation of the passage in Romans it should be noted that temple prostitution was a thing at that time and throughout history and is in fact the subject of prohibition in the Torah:

NIV Deuteronomy 23:

17 No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. 18 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.

So is that what Paul is explaining?

As I read it, Paul is not saying that idolatry causes prostitution but rather that by ignoring God they devolve into spiritual "darkness":

NIV Romans 1:

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

It is as if the heart, denied its proper source of nourishment begins to feed on unsuitable things.

Verse 21 says "for although they knew God" possibly suggesting he is referring to the Jews rather than the gentiles but that's not altogether clear to me. But regardless, by turning away the light, these sinners are cast into spiritual darkness which Paul says leads them to become idolaters.

It appears then that God, in judgment, has for most of history judged the Jews for their deviation and "trained them" to worship him alone but the gentiles he has left to their own devices:

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

NIV Romans 1:

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Again, by ignoring God they were left with nothing to satisfy them so they looked to bodily passions to fill the empty spot within themselves - that "God-shaped hole" within.

So to answer the question I believe that Paul would say that BOTH idolatry and sexual deviance are symptoms of ignorance of God and the resulting emptiness rather than idolatry being the source of shameful lusts and behavior.

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  • I fully agree. Read my updated question, please, maybe we can take this further, as I don't have strong enough contrargument for my thesis. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 16:41
  • You seem to be going beyond the purpose and format of this site. I'm going to have to bow out from your research. Please note that this site is not about "theology" but interpretation. Peace.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:20
  • Didn't I specify "this question is not about homosexuality, but meaning of the verses"? I asked if it's possible that the passage speaks about temple prostitution and does it clearly condemn lesbianism. You and Sola Gratia didn't answer fully. I expected to read if original text allows itself to be read that way and judging by greek grammar say if this interpretation is valid. I added notes because Sola Gratia gave too much attention to moral aspect of homosexuality, while I wanted to see annalysis of original text. I cannot understand how you consider it "theology". Hope it's clear now. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 21:14
  • Perhaps someone else is interested in pursuing this further. Peace.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 21:18
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Paul likely lived in Ephesus in 52-54AD. Ephesus was home of the Seventh Wonder of the World, the Temple of Artemis. At that temple, Artemis was distinctly different than the Greek version of Artemis in Macedonia. In Macedonia Artemis was worshiped as a hunter, and one with nature. In Ephesus, Artemis was a Fertility Goddess. It is likely that temple prostitution existed in the great Temple of Artemis. And since there is little prohibition against homosexuality, there would have likely been male temple prostitutes as well. ACTS records much activity at Ephesus. And Ephesians was Paul's epistle to the Jewish Church there.

Paul likely wrote Romans several years after his life in Ephesus. He would have been knowledgeable of the culture at Ephesus, including any Shrine Prostitutes there, both male and female. The male prostitutes were called "Dog" in Hebrew colloquial. This is explained in the NRSV Bible footnotes for DEUTERONOMY 23.17-18, which is a prohibition of temple prostitution, or their wages, within the House of Yahweh. Also, "Dog" is a traditional colloquial for a sexual "dog" position. Missionaries famously banned that position in areas colonized by Christian nations, punishing those found not to be using required position, which we colloquially call "missionary" position. It might be speculated that male temple prostitutes were expected to assume the "dog" position. And that female prostitutes assumed the "missionary" position in Ephesus, and that using other positions were contrary to cultural practice, or "backwards".

That may explain the Greek word ἀρσενοκοίτης which translates literally to "manbed". This was used by Paul in the espistle to the CORINTHIANS and to TIMOTHY. ἀρσενοκοίτης earliest found usage is in the Greek New Testament codex. Since then, the word has been defined specifically by Christians. We have zero definitions of ἀρσενοκοίτης by those within Ancient Hellenistic Culture, who weren't of Jewish or Christian faith.

The first translation of ἀρσενοκοίτης is in the Old Latin translations of the Bible, and then in the 382AD Latin Vulgate. This was the Latin word "masculorum" which translates to "male-prostitute" without much debate. At any rate, because of the lack of usage of "ἀρσενοκοίτης" in any other ancient Greek works, the Biblical prohibition against ἀρσενοκοίτης has always been considered ambiguous.

That changed with the 1946 edition of the RSV New Testament (before it was revised in 1972) when ἀρσενοκοίτης was defined as "male homosexual". At first, this seems to be simply an advancement in scholarly understanding of ancient Greek words. However, it's easy to debate that the Romans of 300AD understood that "ἀρσενοκοίτης" meant "masculorum", since at that time Greek was still considered the top choice for Internationally Used Language, of the Roman Empire, and Latin was used primarily in Roman Law (and the Vulgate, for the Common People, which is the Latin meaning of "Vulgate", or their law)

Paul likely wrote Romans BEFORE he wrote the Corinthians, much early than he wrote to Timothy (it was the letters to the Corinthians and to Timothy that he used "ἀρσενοκοίτης". People consolidate their understandings as they age, so it's possible that Paul coined this word, ἀρσενοκοίτης, as his unique worldly beliefs, and they likely are the same as those expressed in Romans.

Without much debate, it could be argued that Paul was discussing Male Temple Prostitution, with the connotation of his words being implied, or already understood by his church to be about, those Male Temple Prostitutes.

As late as 1901, with the American Standard Version being published, the New Testament had frequent use of the word, "Fornication" or "Fornicator". This goes back through Biblical Interpretation History, all the way into Old Latin translations of Greek New Testament Codex. The Latin Vulgate uses variations of admonitions against Fornication numerous times. within 1 CORINTHIANS 6, the Latin Vulgate has 4 instances for fornication ["fornicarii", "fornicationi", "fornicationem", and "fornicatur"].

"Fornication" may have been a general prohibition against the use of Female Temple Prostitutes, especially considering that the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was Fertility Goddess Temple, and in the tradition of keeping females virgin till marriage according to Jewish norms. However, males had not held accountable, and thus the prohibition against fornication would make males accountable for their actions.

Post World War 2, with the advent of common interpretation of the ambiguous word ἀρσενοκοίτης to mean "male homosexuality" also came the elimination of the word "Fornication" from modern Bible translations. This was a totally different scholarly tactic to take, considering that "homosexuality" was added, supposedly in order to make clear, and remove ambiguity.

"Fornication" was replaced in post World War 2, modern translations, with either "sexual immorality" or the starkly simply word "immorality" alone.

What could be going on with Scholarly Bible Interpretation post World War Two?

One needs to understand Our Culture, and what was going on at That Time Period, to understand this.

1901 was the last year that Fornication was in common usage in the New Testament, with the ASV Bible publication. After that time period the English speaking nations experienced World War One and World War Two. Over 100 million lives were lost worldwide. Authorities wanted Re-birth to take place.

After World War One, soldiers came home happily single and were loath to marry and make families. During World War Two the translators of the 1946 edition of the Revised Standard Version New Testament were told to soften the admonishments against Fornication, and to make clearer that the norm was marriage and family making. This was to become an actual cultural effort as part of the post World War Two recovery. And so fornication was removed and made ambiguous, and an ambiguous word was clarified to mean "homosexuality", and in turn the new ambiguous meaning of what was once "fornication" would become associated with the sin of "homosexuality."

Following World War 2, single males of family making age were fired from federal government in mass, as "suspect homosexuals". Likewise, the military dishonorably discharged hundreds per year into San Francisco on the same grounds of "suspect homosexuals." Churches around the nation focused away from the sin of Fornication, and refocused on Homosexuality, sometimes with fire and brimstone. And, in schools a new emphasis was placed on boy-girl relationships, dances, home-comings, proms, etc. Bullying of normal boys for not having crushes on girls became common, and calling boys that liked other boys "sissies" became epidemic in most schools.

There was a cultural backlash, with many protesting the new culture. The political system was strengthened, and McCarthyism made common calling such cultural renegades communist sympathizers, and "pinko-communists" became a common phrase for that era. Cultural complaints were squashed with the help of that technique.

Paradoxically, it appears that the use of Cultural tactics for Rebirth may have been largely influenced by the same Soviet tactic, employed in 1933 by Joseph Stalin, with the introduction of Article 121 under the Criminal Code, outlawing homosexuality. And the following year, abortion was also outlawed. This was after the depressive growth rates of the Soviets following World War One, the Revolution, and the Purges to stamp out decent. And the Soviet cultural tactic worked to give rise to improved birthrates.

The cultural shift away from focus on Fornication, and the refocus on Homosexuality, in post World War Two America, gave rise to the success of the Baby Boomer birthrate increases.

State Universities commonly explain the increased birthrate as pent up desire for making families during the war years. However, the Ivy League counter is that that does not account for the post World War One lull in family making.

And so taking all this into account, considering out culture and translations, and Paul's culture and writings, I do believe that he was writing with the connotation being "Temple Prostitution" as the context of his admonitions, which today we call "fornication" (female temple prostitution) or"homosexuality" (male temple prostitution)

0

I think a key point to consider is that "adultery" is quite clearly defined as the mingling of seed, or the placing of seed where it doesn't belong. To illustrate, when we look at the sexual laws of Leviticus 18 we see in every case prohibition against defilement by seed. Even two men can defile each other with their seed. This is further illustrated by the cleanliness laws found in Leviticus 15. The seed of copulation is meant only to be touched by a man and his woman. It is unclean to anyone else.

With this in mind, it is worth considering that two women engaged in sexual activity with each other do not fall under this category. Nothing is adulterated, as they cannot give or receive seed.

As has been pointed out in previous comments, the Law clearly, and repeatedly, forbids male homosexuality and condemns it with death, while female homosexuality is not so much as mentioned. If sin is transgression of the Law (I John 3:4), and if female homosexuality is a sin, then it stands to reason that we would find it in the Law. We do not.

If Paul was not adding to the Law (as forbidden in Deuteronomy 4:2), then we need to ask ourselves how we can harmonize Paul's statements with the Pentateuch.

If we allow the Bible to be its own commentary, we find the "natural use" of a woman is to be (1) man's helpmeet, (2) subject to man, and (3) bearer of man's offspring. We nowhere in Scripture find the "natural use" of a woman being laid forth strictly as a sexual function. In this light, feminism can fall under Romans 1:26.

This is further supported by Romans 1:27, which, speaking of the men, says they "likewise" left the "natural use of the woman" -- ie, they rejected woman as their helpmeet, rejected their divine appointment as woman's authoritative head, and rejected fatherhood. This naturally led to the next step in their refusal to pursue God's plan -- they "burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." The "due penalty" being, I have little doubt, the venereal disease and genetic confusion that comes about as a result of male homosexuality.

Notice that women are said to "leave their natural use", while men correspondingly are said to "leave the natural use of the woman" AND "burn in desire toward one another".

Following this, I would contend that female/female activity is not forbidden among women who are submissive under patriarchal headship, such as co-wives or concubines in a polygynous house. As a final point, I ask that we consider such men as David or Solomon, who had more wives than they could possibly have kept sexually contented. Either the women would have been plagued by frustration, or they would have been free to relieve their sexual tensions among themselves, which would in fact help curb said frustration and lead to deeper and more harmonious relationships among the wives.

0

You all seems to be missing the point here. In my bible (kjv translation into Malayalam language) the words talk directly about homosexuality. The natural use of men for women is for two things mainly : procreation : pleasure. The natural use of women for men is again procreation and get pleasure. This is Godly Intend. You naturally use each other to achieve the purpose. However if a man use a man or woman use a woman, it’s not natural. It’s even against science and the nature and even animals follow natural rule as intended by God (eg: when a lion chooses its partner for a pack, he won’t chose another male but he will choose a female because that’s natural for him so that he can procreate and obtain pleasure)

Emotions clearly leads to actions this the word implies the need for asking God to help you keep your thought field holy for him so that you can serve him with your bodies.

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    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 20:44
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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.

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  • 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). Commented Jun 26, 2018 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. Commented Jun 26, 2018 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? Commented Jun 27, 2018 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. Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 12:05

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