Proof of same-sex love in the Bible

2014-11-22 21:53

Most people often condemn homosexuality and they use the bible as basis for their condemnation.  The tragic reality is that they don’t know the original meaning of the words in Hebrew or Greek tjta deal with homosexuality. And they haven’t tried to understand the historical context in which those words were written. Yet the assumption that the Bible condemns homosexuality is passed down from generation to generation with very little personal study or research. The consequences of this misinformation are disastrous, not only for God’s gay and lesbian children, but for the entire church. The apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Test all things and hold fast to that which is good.” By reading this piece, you are taking Paul seriously. There are biblical descriptions of close and intimate relationships between members of the same gender. The Bible does contain three stories of loving, same-sex relationships in the Bible involving David, Ruth and Daniel.

Ruth and Naomi’s Same-Sex Relationship

Ruth 1: 8-9 reads as follows: Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me.  May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband."

Did you notice that Ruth is specifically turning down the opportunity to find another husband in order to follow Naomi?

Their marriages would be arranged by family.  Ruth would not have the ability to arrange such a marriage where she was going.  There she would be dependent on the largess of others.  By going away with Naomi, Ruth was giving up on any chance at a heterosexual relationship EXCEPT as a loose woman.  And she was doing that in order to be with another woman.

The Bible records the details of the vow that Ruth made to Naomi. Here are her words:

“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17)

When Ruth spoke those haunting words, “Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried,” she wasn’t talking about some theoretical distant future. She was giving voice to the very real possibility that her decision to place her life in the hands of another woman could result in death. The sensible thing would have been to allow Naomi to return to her family and for Ruth to return to hers. But Ruth didn’t do the sensible thing. She threw caution to the wind and went against every survival instinct. Only one word could explain her actions — love.

Ruth 1:14, referring to the relationship between Ruth and Naomi, mention that "Ruth clave onto her." (KJV) The Hebrew word translated here as "clave" is identical to that used in the description of a heterosexual marriage in Genesis 2:24:

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (KJV)

In fact, Ruth’s famous “Wherever you go, I will go” vow is so moving that it is not unusual for heterosexual couples to use it as part of their wedding ceremonies. There is no doubt that this is the story of two women who were in love, who made vows, lived together for life and vowed to be together in death, loved each other deeply, adopted each other’s extended families as their own, and relied on each other for sustenance – as do many lesbian couples today. That the relationship was “blessed by God” can be seen not only from the fact that one of the books of the Bible is named Ruth, but the fact that the writer of the gospel of Mathew includes the name of Ruth as one of only four women named as he lists the genealogy of the 42 generations between Abraham and Jesus.

If you read Ruth 3:1-5 Naomi is explaining how Ruth could seduce a man -- and seduction would come rather naturally to a heterosexual woman and would not need to be explained.  Since it needed to be explained to Ruth, Ruth couldn't have been heterosexual.  It was so low on her priorities that she never bothered to find out on her own, which would have been simple enough if she DID have the interest.  As an older woman, Naomi would have had a harder time ignoring all the talk over her lifetime.  Even though lesbian herself, the mechanics would seep through just as a vegetarian raised by meat-eaters would eventually get to know the basics of cooking meet, even if she had no such interest.

David and Jonathan’s Same-Sex Relationship

Passages in 1 Samuel & 2 Samuel describe, among other events, an extremely close bond between David and Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of King Saul, and next in line for the throne. But Samuel anointed David to be the next king. This produced a strong conflict in the mind of Saul.

1 Samuel 18:1

"...Jonathan became one in spirit with David and he loved him as himself." (NIV)

"...the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (KJV)

Most translations use the term "soul" rather than "spirit" to describe the bond. They speak of an "immediate bond of love", their souls being "in unison," their souls being "knit", etc. Genesis 2:7, as written in the original Hebrew, describes how God blew the spirit into the body of Adam that God had formed from earth, so that Adam became a living soul. This means that "soul", in the ancient Israelite times, represents a combination of body and spirit. Thus the two men appear to have loved each other both physically and emotionally.

1 Samuel 18:2

"From that day, Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house." (NIV)

David left his parent's home and moved to Saul's where he would be with Jonathan.

This is a strong indication that the relationship was extremely close. It echoes the passage marriage passage in Genesis 2:24:

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

Now this begs the question, why would David keep Saul with him and not let him return to his father’s house?? I supposed he kept him at his house to keep his son company and have tea and coffee with him. I very much doubt that. This is clear evidence that there was an intimate relationship between the two men.

1 Samuel 18:3-4

"And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt." (NIV)

We have to appreciate that people in those olden days did not wear underwear as we do today; Jonathan stripped himself naked in front of David. That would be considered extremely unusual behaviour (then and now) unless their relationship was physical.

Concept of Marriage:

It’s also important to understand what the term “Marriage” meant in the biblical context. Marriage was not the same in terms of commitment or ceremony as it is today. The average person 2000 years ago did not have large and elaborate commitment “ceremonies” or “marriages” in front of their friends and neighbours and officiated by a man of the cloth as we do nowadays. Back then:

-If a woman was raped, she was married.

-If a woman was sold for 50 shekels, she was married.

-If the slave master gave a female slave to one of his male slaves for procreation in order to increase the slave master’s number of slaves (a.k.a. wealth), they were married.

-When a couple lived together, they were considered married.

-If a covenant was made between two people and they exchange items including a ring and clothes they are considered to be married.

In this case David made a covenant with Jonathan which symbolises marriage. This is still applicable even today when people get married they make they a covenant with each other.

1 Samuel 20:16-17

“Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul.” (NKJV)

Jonathan makes a covenant and a vow to David yet again. This verse is similar to 1 Samuel 18:3, where Jonathan makes a covenant and the Bible states that he loved him as himself. These two males appear to have a very close relationship or bond that is peculiarly unusual of two men if you read further. This again emphasizes the point of the homosexual relationship.

1 Samuel 18:20-21

"Now Saul's daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 'I will give her to him', he thought, 'so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him'. Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law" (NIV)

In the King James Version, the end of Verse 21 reads:

"Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law, in the one of the twain." (KJV)

When Saul told David that he would give him Michal, he went on to tell David that once he married her, he would be the king's son-in-law "in one of the twain." (Verse 21b - King James Version) That phrase is very important. Let's put it into modern English first: "through one of the two." This suggests that he would be Saul's son-in-law through Michal instead of Merab. But notice that the words ‘one of’ are in italics. That means they are not found in the Hebrew text. In fact, they are not even hinted at in the Hebrew text. Adding them completely changed the meaning of the verse.

What Saul actually told David was this:

Vayomer Sha’ul el David bishtayim titchaten bi hayom

And Saul said to David, “Today you will be my son-in-law through two.”

That is, he would be the king's son-in-law twice, through two of Saul's children. With which of Saul's children did David have a covenant? Only three of Saul's children are mentioned: Jonathan, Merab and Michal. David made no covenant with Merab, who married someone else. He was about to make a covenant with Michal. The only other child of Saul with whom David had a covenant was Jonathan. Verse 21 proves that the covenant was a marriage covenant and that Saul recognised.

1 Samuel 20:41

"After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with is face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together - but David wept the most." (NIV)

Other translations have a different ending to the verse:

"...and they kissed one another and wept with one another, until David exceeded." (KJV)

“...and they kissed one another and wept with one another until David got control of himself." (Amplified Bible)

"and they sadly shook hands, tears running down their cheeks until David could weep no more." (Living Bible)

"Then they kissed one another and shed tears together, until David's grief was even greater than Jonathan's." (Revised English Bible)

The translators of the Living Bible apparently could not handle the thought of two adult men kissing, so they mistranslated the passage by saying that the two men shook hands! Shame, how sad and a blatant distortion of the Word of God.  This is somewhat less than honest. The original Hebrew text says that:

”they kissed each other and wept together until David became great.”

The word which means "great" in this passage is "gadal" in the original Hebrew. The same word is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to King Solomon being greater than all other kings. Some theologians interpret "gadal" in this verse as indicating that David had an erection. However, the thoughts of David becoming sexually aroused after kissing Jonathan may have been too threatening for Bible translators. They either deleted the ending entirely or created one of their own as they always do. This actually makes more sense when the text reads as follows:

“they kissed and wept together until David had an erection.”

It is perfectly normal and can be expected that when two men engage in a passionate kiss an erection would follow. I can testify to this as I have experienced this myself as a gay man.

2 Samuel 1:26

"I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."

David expressed his love for the late Jonathan. Please understand that when David referred to the love of women, the only possible love he could be referring to was sexual love. It was considered highly improper for a man to have a platonic friendship with a woman. Men and women usually didn't even speak to each other in public. Even a husband and wife would not speak to each other in the street. (Some Chassidic Jews still observe this custom.) Since David would not have had any platonic relationships with women, he could only have been referring to sexual interaction. This is a further indication of the sexual nature of his relationship with Jonathan, since it would not make sense to compare a platonic relationship with a man to a sexual relationship with a woman. David clearly preferred the love of Jonathan.  Nowhere in scripture will you find David expressing such love for a woman. Although he married more than once, and fathered children, he never expressed such love for any of his wives. This is further evidence of a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan.

We can all appreciate David's classic male beauty (1 Samuel 16:12) in this story of love and loyalty marked by romance (1 Samuel 18:1-5), secret meetings (1 Samuel 20:1-23; 35-42), kissing and weeping (1 Samuel 20:41), refusal to eat (1 Samuel 28:32-34), and the explicit lover covenant which David keeps after Jonathan's death (1 Samuel 20:12-17; 42).

Daniel and Ashpenaz’ Same-Sex Relationship

In Daniel 1:3, we meet Ashpenaz, the chief of the court officials of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. He was put in charge of the new eunuchs brought in from Judah, the princess and chief young men who had been castrated in fulfilment of prophecy (II Kings 20:18; Isaiah 39:7).  Among these were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. All four were eunuchs.

Daniel 1:9

Various English translations differ greatly:

"Now God had caused the official to show favour and sympathy to Daniel" (NIV)

"Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs" (KJV)

"Now God made Daniel to find favour, compassion and loving-kindness with the chief of the eunuchs" (Amplified Bible)

"Now, as it happens, God had given the superintendent a special appreciation for Daniel and sympathy for his predicament" (Living Bible)

"Then God granted Daniel favour and sympathy from the chief of the eunuchs" (Modern Language)

"And God gave Daniel favour and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs" (Revised Standard Version)

"God caused the master to look on Daniel with kindness and goodwill" (Revised English Version)

Interpretation and analysis:

In this verse, we find that a certain relationship existed between Daniel and Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. There is clear evidence of a homosexual relationship here. The Hebrew words which describe the relationship between Daniel and Ashpenaz are chesed v'rachamim.

The most common translation of chesed is "mercy". V'rachamim is in a plural form which is used to emphasize its relative importance. It has multiple meanings: "mercy" and "physical love". It is unreasonable that the original Hebrew would read as follows:

“Now God had brought Daniel to Ashpenaz, the prince of the eunuchs and he showed mercy and mercy."

The above translation is redundant and repetitive a more reasonable translation would thus be that Ashpenaz:

“Now God had brought Daniel to Ashpenaz, the prince of the eunuchs, he showed mercy and engaged in physical love with Daniel.”

Of course, this would be unacceptable to later translators, so they substitute more innocuous and safe terms. The KJV reference to "tender love" would appear to be the closest to the truth. One might question whether Daniel and Ashpenaz could sexually consummate their relationship. They were both eunuchs. Apparently, when males are castrated after puberty, they still retain sexual drive. At this point, it is important to appreciate who was responsible for Daniel and Ashpenaz having a sexual relationship. According to verse 9, it was God who put them together in their relationship. Now God has no vested interest in people committing fornication, and the fact that V'rachamim means sexual love, and not just sexual activity, indicates to us that this was meant to be a life-long relationship between the two. And what do we call a life-long committed sexual relationship between two people? Marriage. No other romantic interest or sexual partner or marriage was ever mentioned in connection with Daniel in the Bible; Ashpenaz was the only one mentioned.

If it looks like gay couples in the Bible, walks like gay couples in the Bible, talks like gay couples in the Bible, acts like gay couples in the Bible, then it probably is a gay couple in the Bible!

The Bible Speaks Against Certain Homosexual Acts

The Bible is strongly against the following homosexual acts and not necessarily against a committed same-sex union.

1. Homosexual rape (Genesis 19; Judges 19:14) Sodom and Gomorrah

2. Homosexual ritual sex in Pagan temples -- a religious taboo (Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13).

3. Homosexual prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7).

4. Heterosexual men and women going against their basic nature and engaging in homosexual Pagan orgies (Romans 1: 26 “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature;” Romans 1:27 “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”)

5. Bestiality: Men engaging in sex with males of another species -- angels in this case (Jude 7). Jude 7 refers to the people of Sodom as "giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh". Strange flesh has been variously translated as perverted sensuality, unnatural lust, and lust of men for other men, and perversion.

Final analysis

There was no understanding of sexual orientation in the culture and time when scripture was written. There was not even a word for 'homosexuality' or 'homosexual' in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, the original languages of scripture. There are biblical references that condemn same-sex sexual behaviour, but they are all within contexts related to violence, idolatry, promiscuity and exploitation. Careful reading within the historical setting reveals that it is the violence, idolatry, promiscuity and exploitation that is condemned, not the same-sex sexual behaviour. The same condemnation is given to opposite-sex sexual behaviour that is violent, idolatrous, promiscuous and exploitative. One is left with many Biblical passages which condemn fornication - sex outside of marriage. If one were to accept these passages as inspired by God, then one can conclude that the Bible considers homosexual sex within a committed relationship as equivalent to a man and woman living together common-law without having being married. The best response that scripture can give with regard to homosexuality is the declaration that our Creator is very often not concerned about the 'who' of relationship so much as the 'how.' It simply asks if the relationship is functioning according to principles of justice and dignity. Does the partnership demonstrate mutual trust, compassion and commitment? If so, it is blessed by God.

Short Bibliography of References:

  • Donald J. Wold, Out of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998)
  • Thomas E. Schmidt’s Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995)
  • Marion L. Soards’ Scripture and Homosexuality: Biblical Authority and the Church Today (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995).
  • John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980),
  • Anglican theologian Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London: Longmans, Green, 1955).
  • Stanton L. Jones, “The Loving Opposition,” Christianity Today, July 19, 1993, 13.
  • Richard Lovelace, The Church and Homosexuality (Old Tappan, NJ: Flemming H. Revell, 1978), 113.
  • Helminiak, Daniel A. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. San Francisco: Alamo Square Press, 2000.
  • Goss, Robert E and Mona West, ed Take Back the Word. Pilgrim Press, 2000
  • Boswell, John. Christianity, social tolerance, and homosexuality: gay people in Western Europe from the beginning of the Christian era to the fourteenth century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Countryman, Louis William. Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church. Morehouse Publishing, 2001.
  • Heyward, Carter. Touching Our Strength: The Erotic As Power and the Love of God. Harpercollins 1989

Follow me on Twitter: @CamModisane

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