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Christianity Under Fire

Historical Method and Homosexuality

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Should the Fallible Interpret the Infallible?

The following article uses the Historical Method as opposed to the Literal Method to come to some unique interpretations of scripture.

For those that do not want to take the time to read the whole article I will put a quote at the top, to pique your interest.

Here is the quote then the link:

"IN BIBLICAL TIMES, THERE WAS NO UNDERSTANDING OF 'HOMOSEXUALITY AS A SEXUAL ORIENTATION... there was only a general awareness of same-sex acts or contact as "homogenital acts". Our question today is about people and their relationships, not simply about sex acts. Because
this was not a question in the minds of the biblical authors, we cannot expect the Bible to give an answer.

THE BIBLE SUPPLIES NO REAL BASIS FOR THE CONDEMNATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY. What it does do, however, is speak strongly about those who are immoral, lustful, and so forth. These are things that any of us can be guilty of and must stay away from."

The following article demonstrates what can happen when we use our limited understanding of the context and culture of the time of the writing of the scriptures, culture and the various recordings of history (outside the Bible), when trying to understand or change the obvious meanings of the Bible. I have provided the URL in case you want to read it in its entirety. Down below I will say where and why I disagree with many parts of this article.

Here is the link:

Now my condemnation and critique of Historical Method and Homosexuality.

In the following message I show why I cannot accept the historical method of interpretation to understand the Bible.

Critique of the Article on the Historical Method of Interpretation:

As I said earlier I have many disagreements with the article that I posted from a site earlier. Now I am going to look at many parts of it and tell you why I think it is wrong.

The first thing I disagree with is the historical method of
interpretation that this author is using.

The article says, "For instance, take the verse: "it is easier for a CAMEL TO PASS THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25). Does this seem easy to interpret? Well... think again. In Jerusalem there was a very low and narrow gate through the city wall. When a caravan entered through that gate, the camels had to be
unloaded, LED THROUGH THE GATE CROUCHING DOWN, and then reloaded inside the city wall. That gate was called "the eye of the needle."

So, what was Jesus saying.. that it would take a miracle for a rich man to get into heaven, or just that it was hard?... was He just making a point?"

B.J., Using the historical method to determine what the eye of the needle actually was we would have to conclude that it is DIFFICULT, but NOT IMPOSSIBLE for a camel to pass through this gate called the eye of the needle. Because Camels could get through with a great amount of difficulty.

However, this is what the disciples say to Jesus after He makes this statement about the rich and the eye of the needle. "They were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible..." (Mark

If the eye of the needle was a very low gate why would the disciples be so astonished and why would Jesus use this to proclaim that the way of salvation is IMPOSSIBLE with man, when his example (according to the Historical method of interpretation) only showed difficulty not impossibility. I think that the historical method is greatly lacking here.

This author goes on:

"Compare the other approach, the historical-critical reading. The rule here is that a text means whatever it meant to the people who wrote it long ago. To say what a biblical text teaches us today, you first have to understand the text in its original situation and then apply the meaning to the present situation. It is interesting to note that most Christians will use the historical-critical method on some verses they find problematic in their present culture, but ignore it on others which they then use to justify condemnation of certain groups of people."

B.J.:  To go outside of the Bible and rely on historians, scientists and archaeologists to tell us what it was like at the time of the Bible's writing is ludicrous. There is no guarantee that they completely know what they are talking about or that they record history properly. So in effect we are using the uninspired and errant to interpret the inspired and inerrant Word of God. This is just plain foolish!

Article-"Both the literal approach and the historical-critical approach hold that the Bible is God's word, inspired and inerrant, there is no disagreement here. But these two approaches do disagree on what is exactly God's word... the actual words on the page or the
intended "meaning" of the words."

B.J. says, By using the historical method anyone can find historical accounts that will fit their bias and can change the plain sense meaning of scripture.

Article says, "Similarly, reading the first chapter of Genesis that God created the world in seven days, that literal approach would insist that the universe was formed in one week. For if creation did not happen that way, the Bible is mistaken. In contrast, the historical-critical approach first asks, what is the point of the Genesis story of creation? What was the author intending to say?

Well, the Bible intended to give a religion lesson, not a science lesson. The seven day story of creation is just a way of making the point: God created the universe with wisdom, care, and order. If science determines that the universe actually evolved over millions and millions of years, there is not conflict with the Bible. Through science we are simply coming to understand how God chose to create the world. Science helps us to grasp some bit of the order and wisdom that God built into the universe. But the fact that God created the universe remains as true as ever. Thus, there is no error in that teaching of Genesis based on a historical-critical approach. "

B.J. says, I actually believe God to have created all this in days not millions of years because I literally believe what the Bible says concerning this. However, if I want clarification I can look at the Biblical context and the meaning of the Hebrew words used here.

Recording of history (outside the Bible) and science should not interpret the Bible, the Bible should lead science and history. The historical method has helped some to subvert the word of God and make it into a book of entertaining stories. Romans says, "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen...Without understanding...(Romans 1)

I don't have a problem with the world being created in six days. It doesn't require a 'great faith in God but faith in a Great God.'

Article says, "Also, through selective use of the Bible, Christians condemn same sex acts because the Bible mentions them in passing, but they do not advocate slavery even though the whole epistle to Philemon and many other passages support it. The literal approach is almost forced to pick and choose as it applies the Bible. When does one decide to interpret words literally and when they should be taken as only figurative? This is a major problem and with literal interpretation, as well as the fact that many of the original Greek and Hebrew words do not translate well into our present language."

B.J. says, The New Testament talks about slavery but does not say pick your slaves based on their skin color. It does not say mistreat your slaves, in fact it says to treat them properly. I would prefer to be a slave under a obedient Christian than be under the many employers that I have had over the years.

Article says,"People write, even unintentionally, through a bias of their culture. In biblical times, women did not hold positions of authority.. they could not. So, obviously, they are not mentioned in this way in the Bible. Does this mean that God does not allow it, or just that the Bible does not speak of it because of the laws of that day? For example, 1 Timothy 2:11-14 clearly forbids women speaking or teaching in church and that they must be submissive. Do we truly believe this today? Are we being selective in our use of the Bible?

'A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; She must be silent. FOR ADAM WAS FORMED FIRST, THEN EVE. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.' (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

B.J. says, The reasoning for the authority structure here is not cultural or historical (outside the Bible) Paul says, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve." This is a statement of Biblical fact. If one wants to understand the scriptures here regarding husbands and wives'relation in the church they need to look at the greek and the context.

Article says, "To make judgements based on biblically recorded history is tenuous at best. Of course the Bible is applicaple for us today... it always will be. However, we must be careful to not take things out of context without knowing their true meaning and intent as written. Such is the case when it comes to the issue of homosexuality."

B.J. says, This author would have us believe that we could think that a verse means one thing then a historical account or archaeological discovery can come along and change the obvious meaning of the scripture. This is the logical conclusion of the illogical historical/hysterical method of interpretation.

Article says, "The literal approach to the Bible claims not to interpret the Bible but merely to take it for what it obviously says.

The words of the Bible in modern translation are taken to mean what they mean to the reader today. On this basis the Bible is said to condemn homosexuality in a number of places. But a historical-critical approach reads the Bible in its original historical and cultural context. This approach takes the Bible to mean, as best as can be determiend, what its human authors intended to say in their own time and in their own way.

Understood on its own terms, the Bible was not addressing our current questions about sexual ethics and does not condemn gay sex as we understand it today.

THE SIN OF SODOM WAS INHOSPITALITY, NOT HOMOSEXUALITY. Not a single Bible text clearly refers to lesbian sex. And from the Bible's positive teaching about heterosexuality, there follows no valid conclusion whatsoever about homosexuality.

Only five texts surely refer to male-male sex, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10. All these texts are concerned with something other than homogenital activity itself, and these five texts boil down to only three different issues. First, Leviticus forbids homogenitality as a BETRAYAL OF JEWISH IDENTITY, for supposedly male-male sex was a CANAANITE PRACTICE. The Leviticus concern about male-male sex is impurity, an OFFENSE AGAINST THE JEWISH RELIGION, not violation of the inherent nature of sex.

SECOND, the letter to the Romans presupposes the teaching of the Jewish Law in Leviticus, and Romans mentions male-male sex as an instance of impurity. However, Romans mentions it precisely to make the point that purity issues have no importance to Christ, only what's in our hearts and minds.

Finally, in the obscure term arsenokoitai, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy condemn abuses associated
with homogeital activity in the First Century: exploitation and lust. So, the Bible takes no direct stand on the morality of homogenital acts as such nor on the morality of gay and lesbian relationships. Indeed, the Bible's longest treatment of the matter, in Romans, suggests that in themselves homogenital acts have no ethical significance whatsoever. HOWEVER, UNDERSTOOD IN THEIR HISTORICAL
CONTEXT, the teaching of 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, makes this clear: abusive forms of male-male sex -- and of male-female sex--must be avoided."

B.J. says, This is what happens when the historical method is allowed to pursue its course. Taking the Bible literally in Romans, Leviticus, and 1 Corinthians would make it clear that homosexuality is wrong.

Article goes on, "In biblical times, there was no understanding of "homosexuality as a sexual orientation.. there was only a general awareness of same-sex acts or contact as "homogenital acts". Our question today is about people and their relationships, not simply about sex acts. Because this was not a question in the minds of the biblical authors, we cannot expect the Bible to give an answer."

B.J. says, We can pretty much agree that there was no understanding of homosexuality as a sexual orientation in those days. Mainly because it wasn't true. It was a sexual perversion. So using the historical and cultural method we can deduce that if they were ignorant of this issue they could not authoritatively speak on the subject. It is true that it is God speaking through these authors of the Bible THEREFORE he can communicate not only to the ancient ones but the ones reading the Bible today without us having to rely on sources outside the Bible that are fallible historical and cultural accounts.

Following the logical course of this illogical method one could discard everything in the Bible by finding or even creating some historical or cultural event that could change the plain sense meaning of the Word of God. You would think that if God wanted to communicate his truths to us he would make sure that we would not need to be dependent on fallible sources outside the bible to understand the infallible words of God.

Article says, It is interesting to note that Lot offered his own daughters for the men to have sex with, so that they would not bother the guests. Was this not male-female rape? Lot refused to expose his guests to the abuse of the men of Sodom. To do so would have violated the law of sacred hospitatality. In desert country, where Sodom lay, to stay outside exposed to the cold of the night could be fatal, so a cardinal rule of Lot's society was to offer hospitality to travelers. IN WAR, THE VICTORS OFTEN WOULD RAPE MEMBERS OF THE DEFEATED ENEMY, for to treat them as women would insult them, and treat them as inferior.

WHAT WAS THE SIN OF SODOM? Abuse and offense against strangers, insult to the traveler, inhospitality to the needy, and sexual abuse. THAT IS THE POINT OF THE STORY UNDERSTOOD IN ITS HISTORICAL CONTEXT. ...

B.J. says, See where historical, cultural and context of the time methods of interpretation can lead? What we need for proper interpretation is in the Bible.

Some schools of thought rely on this method more heavily than others.

I am assuming that most people that read this critique already agree that Homosexuality is wrong no matter the culture. However, if one would follow the logical course of this illogical method of interpretation they would be forced to excuse things like Homosexuality. They would be in fact be supplying Homosexuals with the arguments they need to subvert the Word of God.

The historical method should be abandoned and we should get back to the Bible and let God guide us and the Bible interpret itself. It is time for the Bible colleges and seminaries to forsake this ungodly method for the plain sense of scripture.

BJ Maxwell

Revised 07/05/2006