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Question:

Is there any textual basis (in the Septuagint, or extant secular literature), to find that "strange flesh" refers to homosexuality?

Is "σαρκὸς ἑτέρας" ever idiomatic in Literary or Biblical Greek?

The Text:

Jude 6, NASB:

Jude 6-7, NASB:

6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7 just as, (ὡς) Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as, (τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον) these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh (σαρκὸς ἑτέρας), are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.


The Issue

  1. Idiomatic Hapax: This expression appears "idiomatic", and seems to be a Hapax in Greek Literature. Could this be idiomatic in another language, like Aramaic?
  2. Ezekiel 16:48-49 - explicitly states that God "removed" Sodom because they refused to help the poor and needy, (but never references homosexuality).
  3. A comment noted that ἑτέρα(ς) was used differently by different NT writers, (Acts 2:4), which may leads to an entirely different understanding.
  4. Greek term ἕτερος (the lexical form of ἑτέρα(ς), meaning “other/another”) is transliterated as heteros; - This seems to be the exact opposite of what would be expected in this context -- ὅμοιος (homoios, meaning “like, similar”).
1

Louw Nida identifies the whole phrase "ἀπέρχομαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας" (‘to go after strange flesh') as being idiomatic in nature noting that "Though in some societies homosexuality is extremely rare, there are always ways of talking about it, though frequently the expressions may seem to be quite vulgar." [Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 771 (88.279)]. However the lexicon does not provide any support for this assertion that the phrase is idiomatic of homosexual behavior.

I am not personally aware of any other places in Greek or Hebrew literature where this exact idiom is employed - it seems that the more common idiom was natural/ unnatural however I do believe there are some very good reasons to understand this phrase as referring to homosexual activity of some description rather then a desire to have intercourse with Angels.

The word 'strange' as used in some versions (KJV, NKJV, NASB etc) may, potentially create a different meaning in the mind of modern English readers to that intended by the Greek adjective ἑτέρας. The Greek term basically means 'other' or 'different' however Robertson notes that:

The sense of “different” grows naturally out of the notion of duality. The two things happen just to be different…. The word itself does not mean “different,” but merely “one other,” a second of two. It does not necessarily involve “the secondary idea of difference of kind” (Thayer). That is only true where the context demands it1/

It should be noted that in Acts 2:4 it is used to refer to other tongues (or human languages) and in Acts 20:15 it refers to the next day - in these usages the idea of a difference of kind is alien to the use of the word. The term itself then does not have to mean something entirely different. In context it seems to mean 'other' rather then that which was'normal' or different to that which is normal.

This interpretation is entirely in keeping with first century Jewish norms. Josephus and Philo not only condemn relations that are “contrary to nature,” they explicitly understand Genesis 19 as referring to homosexual acts2 and the teaching of scripture (Gen 1:26-28; 2:21-24; Lev 18:1-30; Matt 19:3-6; Mark 10:2-9)

Indeed it would be very strange for Jewish writer to refer to Angels using the Greek term σαρκὸς. Of all the potential ways to refer to angels a term used to refer to the physical, earthly and human would be a very strange choice. However using the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as a striking example of the immortality of homosexual behavior would certainly be relevant in the first century Greco-Roman context to warn against such behavior as opposed to the non-existent temptation to have sex with angels.

It must also be noted that the men of Sodom did not know that the visitors Lot received were Angels. In Gen 19:5 we read them demanding that Lot bring out the 'men' that had come to visit. It is not even clear that Lot had identified them as Angels, they had the appearance of men (Gen 18:2,16,22; 19:1,5,8,10,12,16), whose feet could be washed (Gen 19:2) and who could eat (Gen 19:3).

In similar vein we must also note the beginning of Jude 7 where we are told, "...as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them...." the sin that Jude is referring to is more then a single occurence that happened that one night (when only the male inhabitants of Sodom were involved - gen 19:4) - it seems only logical to understand the sin been referred to as a lifestyle of sensuality and sexual immorality, at least one aspect of which was exemplified in men pursuing the flesh of other men instead of the flesh of women as many conservative and evangelical scholars agree:

If we look again at the literal translation of verse 7a, we are able to read the text as follows: “How Sodom and Gomorrah (and the cities surrounding them in a similar way to these) were indulging in sexual immorality and went after other flesh.” In the context of the verse, the position of the pronoun these indicates that Jude refers to the men of Sodom.35 But what is the meaning of the term other flesh? The Greek reveals that in the case of duality (for example, male and female) the word other can mean “a second of two” and in the context denote a difference of kind.36 Therefore, when the men of Sodom were interested in sexual relations with men, they perverted the created order of natural intercourse. That is, the men of Sodom did not desire females (see Gen. 19:8–9); instead, these men demanded homosexual relations with the men who visited Lot. The activity of the Sodomites is perversion. This is precisely how translators of the New International Version render the phrase went after other flesh.3

Further more if one separates Jude 1:6 from the events of Gen 6:1-8 which is entirely possible as Jude mentions nothing of angels coming to earth and procreating with human beings (and in this writers opinion such a conclusion is probable for that interpretation of Gen 6:1-8 is problematic) then the whole concept of linking sexual immorality with Angelic beings is lost from the passage leaving us to return once again to simplest understanding of what the term must mean - the clearly documented behaviors that were practiced in Sodom and the surrounding cities of the Jordan plain4.


Notes

1/ A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament (1934, p. 748)

2 Josephus writes "And when God had replied that there was no good man among the Sodomites; for if there were but ten such men among them, he would not punish any of them for their sins, Abraham held his peace. And the angels came to the city of the Sodomites, and Lot entreated them to accept of a lodging with him; for he was a very generous and hospitable man, and one that had learned to imitate the goodness of Abraham. Now when the Sodomites saw the young men to be of beautiful countenances, and this to an extraordinary degree, and that they took up their lodgings with Lot, they resolved themselves to enjoy these beautiful boys by force and violence; (201) and when Lot exhorted them to sobriety, and not to offer anything immodest to the strangers, but to have regard to their lodging in his house; and promised, that if their inclinations could not be governed, he would expose his daughters to their lust, instead of these strangers—neither thus were they made ashamed." [Ant. 1.200-201] and Philo writes "and so, by degrees, the men became accustomed to be treated like women, and in this way engendered among themselves the disease of females, and intolerable evil; for they not only, as to effeminacy and delicacy, became like women in their persons, but they made also their souls most ignoble, corrupting in this way the whole race of man, as far as depended on them" [T. ab. 136]

3 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 381–382). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

4 The sin of Sodom involved more than homosexuality (Eze 16:49-50) however in Jude 1:7 the writer is referring to sexual immorality.

  • Good answer (+1); it might be profitable to add a citation for "Louw Nida identifies..." – ThaddeusB Sep 10 '15 at 19:01
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    @JonathanChell, you skipped over Jude’s statement that the angels who abandoned their own domain (v.6) and the men of Sodom (v.7) indulged in a gross immorality “in the same way”. Jude says the angels’ sin – which you ignore – is the same as that of the men of Sodom. There is no precedent for thinking the angels engaged in homosexuality but strong evidence Jude thought the v.6 angels and v.7 men BOTH wanted human/angel sex (eg. Gen.6 as explicated by Enoch and Gen.18-19 explicitly). Your reading ignores the only context Jude gives for understanding the ‘strange flesh’ reference. – Schuh Sep 10 '15 at 20:34
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    @Schuh I didn't ignore anything, for quite simply that is not what the text says as I demonstrated in my answer the sin being discussed is not limited to the people of Sodom only but involved all the cities of the plane - did all the men from all the cities lust after the Angels (that they didn't know where angels)? (2) The clause "in a similar manner" could refer to the judgement rather then the sin as the NKJV reads, – Jonathan Chell Sep 11 '15 at 6:45
  • @Schuh (3) consider the antecedent to the word 'these' why do you assume that refers only to the Angels and not to the Israelites whose sin was disbelief as well, v5. (4) in v8 we read that the people in Jude's day 'likewise defile the flesh' are you suggesting there were angels walking the earth in Judes day as well that these men where chasing after. No, I have not ignored anything, but the fanciful claims about intercourse with angels seems, in my opinion, to ignore an awful lot :D – Jonathan Chell Sep 11 '15 at 6:49
  • @JonathanChell, by your reckoning, then, what is the sin of the angels? You claim it's "entirely possible" Jude was NOT referring to the Enochic tradition in v.6 (despite Jude's direct mention of Enoch in v.14-15). But so far you've offered no alternative explanation, nor shown how v.6 and v.7 share a common 'gross immorality' that isn't human/angel sex, however "fanciful" you find Enoch's story. – Schuh Sep 11 '15 at 18:12
0

1. Question :

Does Jude 7 imply "Homosexuality"?

If not, how else could it be understood? What is the support for that argument?


2. Context :

The book of Jude was written to encourage the Christians to contend for their faith, against people who were causing distress to their community.

Jude 3-* - 3. I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith ... For certain persons have crept in unnoticed .... 16. These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage ...


3. A Dysphemistic Interpretation :

Based on that context, and other texts, it seems reasonable that "σαρκὸς ἑτέρας", (other flesh) could be understood literally - and as a "Dysphemism" : conveying an offensive, and harsh reality :

"persons" were going after "each-others' flesh / lives" - with malicious intent.

Other Uses in Scripture :

NASB, Proverbs 30:14 - There is a kind of man whose teeth are like swords And his jaw teeth like knives, To devour the afflicted from the earth And the needy from among men.

Enoch 7:4 - Who consumed 4 all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against 5 them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and 6 fish, and to devour one another's flesh and drink the blood. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones ...

Ezekiel 16:49, NASB - Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. (Also Eze. 18; 22; etc.)


4. Parallel Contexts - The Sin of Oppression :

Jude Explicitly States that This Specific Sin is Analogous of Another:

NASB, Jude 7 - ... since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

All Parallel Contexts Affirm Oppression:

  1. In Genesis, the oppression and abuse of the sojourner, (at the very least);
  2. In Ezekiel, the oppression of the poor;
  3. In Enoch, Angels who had left their rightful place and presumed authority over mankind.
  4. And in Jude, those who intentionally cause strife - for their own advantage.

These Consistencies regarding oppression - seem to vastly outweigh any doctrinal presuppositions that attempt to inject the issue of homosexuality into these contexts.

Both Jude, and Enoch Recount the Fall of the Angels:

Jude 1:6 - ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας, (having left) τὸ ἴδιον *οἰκητήριον, (their home)

Enoch 12:4 - του ουρανου οιτινες απολιποντες, (having left) του ουρανον, (the heavens), τον υψηλον

Enoch 15:4 - δια τι απελιπετε, departed) τον ουρανον, (heaven) τον υψηλον τον αγιον του αιωνος

In Enoch, "another's flesh", αλληλων τας σαρκας, seems to be reflected in Jude as σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, (other flesh).

Also chapters 10, 15, etc, (repeated throughout the book).


5. Notes:

  1. There is overwhelming evidence, and consensus, that the Book of Enoch is cited within Scripture--but especially by Jude, (From Wikipedia, an Introduction to Enoch, et al.).
  2. The First Book of Enoch is date to be at least 200-300 years before Jesus, and would have certainly been available for Jude to reference/cite.
  3. "σαρκὸς ἑτέρας", is not used consistently, (at all), in Greek literature to idiomatically connote homo/sexuality. Further - Even though : "Other Natures" is used to distinguish "gods" and "men", and various other life forms, the constructions usually use "βίος" rather than "σαρκὸς" - but none of those constructions ever seem to be in context with sexuality, (let alone homosexuality).
  4. "σαρκὸς ἑτέρας" does not seem to appear in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew texts - which could have supported an idiomatic understanding.
  5. This Greek construction, (and variations including forms of ἀλλήλους, κρέας, πλησίον, βίος, σαρκὸς, etc) - also do not seem to appear in Literary or Biblical Greek.
  6. In Genesis, the Septuagint uses "συγγενώμεθα, (to be with)" to translate "let us know them", (which is assumed to mean a sexual act. Although this Greek word could imply a sexual act if the context is not ambiguous--this leap should not be made if there is ambiguity--as proven by Judith 12:16-13:20, (Where the text is illustrates the ambiguity - that although they spent time together, she actually ended up cutting off his head ...).
  7. Where the Sodom narrative in Genesis could be considered ambiguous - Neither Ezekiel nor the Book of Enoch are ambiguous; they certainly are referring to crimes of oppression, (homosexuality is never explicitly referenced as could be expected - because it is very clearly addressed many other places).

Disclaimer: Obviously - there are many other passages in Biblical texts that discuss homosexuality. This answer is simply to argue that: Jude doesn't seem to be one of those passages.

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    answering your own question, and accepting it as the best answer? – Jonathan Chell Nov 13 '15 at 16:19
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The Greek word ἑτέρας literally means 'other, different' (source).

For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another (ἑτέρας, heteras) tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar.

Hebrews 7:13 (ESV)

as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these, having given themselves to whoredom, and gone after other flesh(σαρκὸς ἑτέρας sarkos heteras), have been set before -- an example, of fire age-during, justice suffering.

Jude 1:7 (Young's Literal Translation)

The ESV itself translated σαρκὸς ἑτέρας in Jude 1:7 as the 'other flesh' (not 'same flesh') in its footnote (source).

6 You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domain but abandoned their own place of residence, he has kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up for the judgment of the great Day. 7 So also Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire.

Jude 1:6-7 (NET Bible)

In Jude 6, angels had heterosexual sex with females (producing an offspring called 'Nephilim') while in Jude 7, it is said that males wanted to have sex with angels (Genesis 19). Both were identified as fornication not in the context of human flesh but rather, of “different flesh” (Greek: σαρκὸς ἑτέρας sarkos heteras) due to its connection with the angels. This further shows that homoeroticism in Genesis 19 was not in the context of consensual loving same-sex relationship. Rather, it's homoeroticism in the context of rape (coercion).

35 tn Grk “strange flesh.” This phrase has been variously interpreted. It could refer to flesh of another species (such as angels lusting after human flesh). This would aptly describe the sin of the angels, but not easily explain the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. It could refer to the homosexual practices of the Sodomites, but a difficulty arises from the use of ἕτερος ({etero"; “strange,” “other”). When this is to be distinguished from ἄλλος (allos, “another”) it suggests “another of a different kind.” If so, would that properly describe homosexual behavior? In response, the language could easily be compact: “pursued flesh other than what was normally pursued.” However, would this find an analogy in the lust of angels (such would imply that angels normally had sexual relations of some sort, but cf. Matt 22:30)? Another alternative is that the focus of the parallel is on the activity of the surrounding cities and the activity of the angels. This is especially plausible since the participles ἐκπορνεύσασαι (ekporneusasai, “having indulged in sexual immorality”) and ἀπελθοῦσαι (apelqousai, “having pursued”) have concord with “cities” (πόλεις, poleis), a feminine plural noun, rather than with Sodom and Gomorrah (both masculine nouns). If so, then their sin would not necessarily have to be homosexuality. However, most likely the feminine participles are used because of constructio ad sensum (construction according to sense). That is, since both Sodom and Gomorrah are cities, the feminine is used to imply that all the cities are involved. The connection with angels thus seems to be somewhat loose: Both angels and Sodom and Gomorrah indulged in heinous sexual immorality. Thus, whether the false teachers indulge in homosexual activity is not the point; mere sexual immorality is enough to condemn them. (NET Bible Notes Jude 1:7).

NOTE

Many Evangelical Christians (i.e. those who hold onto the 5 Solae) believed angels procreated with human females in Genesis 6:1-4 that produces the Nephilim (source).

Athenagoras (A.D. 177) wrote in “Concerning the Angels and Giants” that it was -the fallen angels who fathered the giants before the flood:

Just as with men, who have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice […], so is it among the angels. Some, free agents, you will observe, such as they were created by God, continued in those things for which God had made and over which He had ordained them; but some outraged both the constitution of their nature and the government entrusted to them: namely, this ruler of matter and its various forms, and others of those who were placed about this first firmament […] these fell into impure love of virgins, and were subjugated by the flesh, and became negligent and wicked in the management of the things entrusted to him.” [ix]

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    The ESV footnote says “other flesh” not “other sex”. – Susan Sep 10 '15 at 7:42
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    This answer is full of assumptions that are not supported, the ESV footnote is actually "other flesh" and not "other sex" – Jonathan Chell Sep 10 '15 at 7:43
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    It assumes the men of Sodom knew the visitors were angels, when the text specifically says they referred to the visitors as 'men' (Gen 19:5) and it also assumes a meaning of Jude 6 that relates back to an understanding of Gen 6 that you assumed to be correct (this is an understanding that is not universally held and again is open to refutation when we understand that procreation across species does not happen in God's created order). finally there is the assumption that 'other flesh' must refer to angels despite the fact that christians have always understood this to relate to homosexuality :D – Jonathan Chell Sep 10 '15 at 8:00
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    @JonathanChell, If there is someone who assumes, it's St. Jude himself! "...pursued unnatural desire [sarkos heteras σαρκος ετερας] in a way similar to these [toutois τουτοις] ANGELS, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire", Jude 1:5-7 (NETBible). FYI, Christians have not always understood 'other flesh' in Jude 1:7 as referring to 'homo-sexuality.' – Radz C. Brown Sep 10 '15 at 8:30
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    You're on revision #15 now since the post was made yesterday. Please try to bundle your edits to avoid excessive bumping of the post to the top of the "active" list. This can be distracting and irritating to people who use that list to view new content. – Susan Sep 11 '15 at 15:51

protected by James Shewey Jun 30 '17 at 4:36

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