Theology changes its mind (part 4)

Yesterday it was the words of Jesus. Today I want to look at the Old Testament and Sodom.

Yes Sodom, what could be more damning than that? We even have an English word, sodomy, derived from that name so it must be about gay sex, mustn’t it?

Well yes and no.

This is what happened in Sodom, Genesis 19:4-8

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Conclusive? Let’s look at what the rest of the Bible says, after all one of the criteria I have limited myself by in order to keep my conclusions within Evangelicalism is this: WE AFFIRM  that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

So letting scripture interpret scripture what does the rest of the Bible say?

Jeremiah 23:14

But in the prophets of Jerusalem
    I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
    they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
    so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
    and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

The prophets of Jerusalem have become like Sodom and Gomorrah because of their adultery. Sexual sin yes, but homosexuality no.

Then there’s Ezekiel, when he wasn’t seeing strange visions of flying things by the river, valleys of dry bones or water flowing out of the Temple he had this to say about Sodom: (Chapter 16)

46 And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 

Not even sexual sin here, but failing to feed the poor and needy.

Sodom_en_Gomorra

Now back to the judgement of Sodom passage in Genesis. The whole story of the men who appeared to Abraham starts in Chapter 18.

It’s the middle of the day, the hottest part of the day, Abraham is doing the sensible thing, having a siesta in the shade, it is far too hot for anything else. Then three men appear, what does Abe do? He prepares a meal for them, despite the heat, OK   he gets some people to help him including his wife, it was a patriarchal society after all. Bread made, calf killed prepared and cooked, and all for some strangers. This is good going on the hospitality front.

That’s how the visit of the three men starts.

Compare this to the hospitality shown to the same men in the next chapter of Genesis. Or lack of it. They don’t welcome strangers, or prepare them food. Just the opposite, they want to abuse them. As for Lot, he’d rather give members of his own family to the mob than let his guests suffer, that again is hospitality beyond what would be expected.

So the hospitality to strangers of both Abraham and Lot is contrasted with the abuse to strangers of the men of Sodom. Even if you mix the genders of the people in the story around  there’s no change. What the men of Sodom did was very wrong.

Scripture interprets scripture and and the sin of Sodom as being all about homosexuality disappears.

Now to see how the New Testament looks at it:

Sodom is mentioned as an example of God punishing the guilty in several places in the New Testament yet without mentioning homosexuality. If gay sex were such a big sin as some Christians make it out to be, and if Sodom were the prime example of this it seems strange to me that neither Jesus or any of the other writers linked Sodom wuth homosexuality. Except possibly Jude.

Jude 5-7 says:

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgement of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

The ESV above says unnatural desire in verse 7. The KJV has strange flesh, which is closer to the Greek. Some have equated this with homosexuality, but I can’t see this from the Greek — σαρκὸς ἑτέρας (sarkòs ètéros). Èteros, usually transliterated hetero is the root from which we get words like heterosexual. Seems a strange word to use if you are talking about homosexuality. What is strange about your own gender?

There are punishments from Jesus in Jude, v5 The Egyptians who got drowned in the Red Sea, but the Israelites are saved. v6 The angels could be a reference to the flood story which starts in Genesis 6 where  Noah and his family are saved. v7 Sodom.

Some have put verses 6 and 7 together abd said that the people of Sodom were condemned for sex with angels, but I can find no more evidence of this than I can for homosexuality. We’ll just have to put this down as something we just don’t know.

To summarise, when using scripture to interpret scripture there is no evidence to link the sin of Sodom to homosexuality and a lot of evidence to link it to pride and the not being hospitable to strangers.

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