"THE SIN OF SODOM"
How many times have you heard a Christian say, "Homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so...According to the Bible, Sodom was destroyed for its depravity of engaging in sodomy..."?
Well, next time you hear that, don't be angry at the speaker. Instead, be sympathetic and understanding, because it only proves the speaker hasn't thoroughly studied their own Bible.
After all, anybody can read the instructions for "Assembling A Bicycle." But if you've actually *ridden a bike, and you understand the engineering and physics behind one, you're less likely to finish the assembly with a malfunctioning bike and lots of parts left over.
In similar fashion, many Christians' "reading" leaves them with a malfunctioning understanding of the "Sin of Sodom." It was not "Homosexuality," but instead "Inhospitality" that was Sodom's Big sin, and the primary reason God was so angry at Sodom's citizens. Here's why...
*** The tendency of Christian denominations to focus upon the "homosexual aspect" of the Biblical story of Sodom and the Cities of the Plain is understandable, if not Scripturally sound.
Anti-homosexual interpretations of the Scriptures began cropping up within barely 100 years after the Crucifixion, notably under the teachings of Augustine, Justin Martyr, and others. By the time of the Council of Nicea, which fixed the various Christian writings into what we call "the Canon" -- the official Bible -- some 300 years later, those interpretations had taken firm root. By then, all the original writers were dead. There was no Paul, or Peter, or Matthew or Mark to say, "Hey, wait a minute, you've gone too far; that's not what we meant you to get from our words..." Even the more gentle and forgiving Christian leaders -- forgiving in the style of Jesus -- like Pelagius, had been trounced and shoved aside by the adamantly Paulinist adherents of the early Church. (Indeed, more than one Bible scholar has observed that the Council of Nicea marked "the turn of the Church from Christianity to Paulinity.")
Even so, the word "Sodomite" did not exist as we understand it throughout the 4,000 years of pre-Christian history. And the word "homosexual," as you know, did not come into being until the late 1890s-C.E.
Upon what, then, was the "Sin of Sodom = Homosexuality" idea built? Early Christian Apologists, extrapolating from a few unrelated lines from Paul and a single entry from Jude, began erecting a faulty exegetical structure which led to it. Here's the passage from Jude, the *only one in the entire Bible which might remotely be construed as addressing Sodom and homosexuality:
Jude 1:7-8 "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities."
Unfortunately for the argument, the Greek word translated here as "fornication" is "porneia" and has a distinctly heterosexual connotation. And the "strange flesh" is a reference to angels, the "sons of God," that WOMEN had sex with [see Genesis 6:1-4] according to Jewish tradition (Jude, of course, was presumably Jewish). But, there is no mention of homosexuality in the passage.
Against the argument are 20 other Biblical references to
Sodom and its various sins before God:
Gen. 13:13 (mentions "sin" but not homosexuality)
Gen. 18:20 ("greivous sin" but not homosexuality)
Gen. 19:13 (no mention of homosexuality)
Deut. 29:17-26 (idolatry, abominations, false gods, no homosex)
Deut. 32:32-38 (idolatry again, no homosex)
Isaiah 1:9-23 (murder, greed, thievery, rebelliousness, no homosex)
Isaiah 3:8-15 (mistreating the poor, no homosex)
Isaiah 13:11-19 (haughtiness, no homosex)
Jer. 23:10-14 (adultery, lying by priests and prophets; no homosex)
Jer. 49:16-18 (evil, pride, no homosex)
Jer. 50:2-40 (idolatry, pride, no homosex)
Lamen. 4:3-6 (cruelty, failure to care for the young, no homosex)
Ezek. 16:49-50 (idleness, lack of charity, haughtiness, no homosex)
Amos 4:1-11 (oppression, mistreating the needy, no homosex)
Zeph. 2:8-9 (pride, reproaching God, no homosex)
Matt. 10:11-15 (inhospitality, no homosex)
Matt. 11:16-24 (ridiculing Jesus, inhospitality, no homosex)
Mark 6:10-11 (warnings about inhospitality, no homosex)
Luke 10:10-12 (more warnings about inhospitality, no homosex)
Luke 17:26-29 (warning about complacency, no homosex)
II Peter 2:6 (ungodliness, implied idolatry, no homosex)
Jude 1:7-8 (mentioned previously, no homosex)
Within all these references, many sins are listed -- greed, idolatry, inhospitality, lawlessness, covetousness, incivility, and more -- but homosexuality is not mentioned even *once.
Can we honestly think that all those Biblical writers knew that Sodom's sin was homosexuality, and they just forgot to mention it?
Now, consider this: The vast majority of the references to Sodom occur in the Old Testament, much closer to the actual date of the city's destruction in history than the writing of Jude. Those references should carry more weight than later references, being nearer to the origin of the story. Yet none of them mention homosexuality as being even *one of Sodom's sins, let alone the "BIG SIN." Furthermore, the only time Jesus Himself spoke of Sodom's sins -- as recorded separately by Matthew, Mark, Luke and Peter -- he never mentioned homosexuality. So, if Sodom were indeed the glaring example of the "sin of homosexuality" some modern Christians think it to be, Jesus was oddly unaware of it.
Indeed, Jesus uses Sodom's story as an example of what can happen by violating Hospitality: " ...whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it... And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet... Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city."
And as for the number of times the Bible speaks of how important "Hospitality" was to the people in ancient days, they are far more frequent than Jude's single misused cite: * Exodus 22:21; 23:9 * Deuteronomy 10:19; 14:29; 24:14-22; 27:19 * Leviticus 19:33-34 * Matthew 10:5-15 * Mark 6:7-11 * Luke 9:1-5; 10:3-12 * Romans 12:6-15 * 1 Timothy 3:2 * Titus 1:7-8 * 1 Peter 4:8-10
So much for that!
Now, in order to study *why the "Sin of Sodom" was essentially and primarily about violations of the Law of Hospitality, plus some others -- but *not what we call "homosexuality" -- we need only return to the actual passage from Genesis. But first, a hint: In the "Texts of Ras Shamra" (ancient Ugarit from north Syria, circa 1400-BC) we read that an Ideal Son is one "who would drive away any who would molest his night-guest."
Why is that ancient saying, written near the time of Abraham and long before the events in "Exodus" took place, important to understand?
The world Abraham and his nephew, Lot, knew in 1950-b.c. (approx.) was a world of individual city-states. Every city had its own King and its own soldiers, and each city was set against the others. Even when cities were situated close enough to one another to make inter-city commerce easy by requiring less than a day's travel on foot or by camel, which allowed alliances to grow between them -- as in, for example, the ancient Five Cities of The Plain, of which Sodom was one (the others were Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Zoar)-- their alliances remained fragile and wary. There was no "universal Law," no commonly accepted document like our Constitution or The 10 Commandments, by which all men lived. There wasn't even "God's Law," since at that time only Abraham and his tribe of nomads believed in God. Instead, people lived according to "codes," like the famous "Code of Hammurabi" you've heard about. These "codes" varied in detail and topic, depending on what city-state you lived in and how your local King felt about things. But some of the codes were so obviously sensible that they gained wide adherence among decent people, regardless which city or tribe they belonged to. And chief in importance among *all the codes was the "Code of Hospitality." Indeed, it was so well-accepted by almost everyone that it was usually called the "LAW of Hospitality."
Now, we today don't think much about Hospitality, other than to try and make our guests comfortable, offer them soda and chips, make sure there's a clean towel for them in the bathroom. We do these things to be nice to our guests, because we like them and want to be friendly, but "hospitality" is only a custom for us, not a commandment, not a *law. If we don't feel like being hospitable, we don't have to be. When a guest starts to impose on us, we can simply suggest they find a hotel for the night. However, in Abraham's world "Hospitality" meant an entirely different code of conduct -- an attitude toward one's guests which most, if not all, Americans today would find *verrrry difficult to stick to. (You might wonder if even *you could, "Christian" though you are!)
In Abraham's day, travel between one's neighbors, or to go and conduct trade in a city-marketplace, was *extremely hazardous. There were no paved roads, no streetlights, no telephone call-boxes, no AAA, no Highway Patrol. What there *were, were roving packs of wolves, hyenas, wild dogs. Lions, Tigers, and Bears. A brave man with a good spear could fend off predators, if he were strong and lucky, but a man with wife and children in tow risked losing a family member -- children, especially -- to hungry jaws. (Think of the shows you've seen on the Discovery Channel, where lions attack a herd of Wildebeest, cutting out the little ones, the slow ones...and imagine yourself as a Wildebeest in Abraham's day...and you'll get the picture.) And if *that weren't bad enough, there were human animals -- outlaws, bandits, thieves and cutthroats -- inhabiting the wilderness in between the villages and cities. For that reason, people tried to travel in caravan whenever possible, because a caravan offered enough strong arms with spears to defend against packs of robbers. Even so, it was not uncommon for a caravan to come across a huddled group of bodies, some small band of travelers who'd been overcome and slaughtered for their possessions
Hence, the importance of the Law of Hospitality. Under Hospitality, as a home-owner -- whether your home had mud-brick walls and a stout oaken door, or merely camel-hides draped over poles to form a tent -- you were *REQUIRED to accept any wayfaring stranger, or group of strangers, who asked shelter of you. You were *REQUIRED to share whatever food or drink you possessed. You were *REQUIRED to tend to their pack animals, if they had any. You were *REQUIRED to help them bed down as best they could. You were *REQUIRED to defend them against all attackers, animal or human, even if it cost the lives of your sons and your own life in the process. No matter if you were a Sodomite or a Gomorrahn, a Moabite or a Philistine, a Phoenician or a Hyksos...you lived by the law of Hospitality, or you died for lack of it.
Why? Because you never knew when it might be *you needing someone *else's shelter -- requiring their hospitality -- in order to preserve your own life and property.
Understanding all this as background, the wisdom of that 3,400 year-old Ugarit saying is clear: While many things go into making an "ideal" son, a man doesn't really appreciate it until he's engaged in hand-to-hand combat to defend his house-guests and his home...*that's when a courageous son at your side *really *counts!
You with me, so far? Good; let's move on...
Enter The Lord and His Angels, on their way to destroy Sodom...why? Because, as we read (do you remember?) in Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc., the citizens of Sodom were idolatrous, haughty, greedy, oppressive, uncharitable, didn't even care for their own children, and in all manner of ways were wickedly sinful. It was not because they were "homosexuals." Surely, adultery was common, homosexuality was common, child-sex was common, bestiality was common -- and why not, for they knew not God and had no decency or love in them; they were not respecters of persons -- any sex was "good sex," and anything was okay to do if you could get away with it. And, obviously, Sodom was not a city exclusively inhabited by what we know of as "homosexuals" -- that is, people oriented to desire only their own gender -- since Sodom had children, and children require a mother and father who've had sex with each other. Indeed, when God explains to Abraham why he intends to destroy Sodom, He doesn't mention homosexual acts. He could have, if it were so important to Him, but He doesn't. He simply says the "outcry" because of their various sins has been great. And surely that was so, since all the mentions of Sodom in later passages speak of a variety of wicked sins.
In the Genesis story, Abraham bargains with God to prevent the destruction, asking God to stay His hand if some "righteous" men can be found in the city. God agrees, and sends His Angels to investigate.
What happens when the Angels enter the city? First, they enter at dusk, just as the gates of the city are being closed for the night to protect its citizens behind the walls. They do not check in with the authorities, do not announce their presence and show their credentials as merchants, or traders, or anything. Instead, they come in quietly and are taken to the house of a man unliked by the people of Sodom -- a stiff-necked man, a man who does not follow Sodom's gods or rituals, a "sojourning" man, a non-citizen -- Lot, a nephew of Abraham. Are these two guests of Lot's possibly spies? Will they arise in the wee hours, throw open the gates, and open the city to invaders? Who are they, and what is their business here? If you're a Sodomite, lawless and pagan, and you don't much like Lot anyway, why not go to Lot's house and force the door and drag the guests out? And while you're at it, why not rape and humiliate them, right in front of Lot's horrified eyes, showing Lot what a weak and incapable man he is -- and have fun while you do it? Lot's always talking about how his "God" is more powerful than your god Moloch? Hah! *You'll *show *him!
Now, pause a moment, Dear Reader...*think about it*...can you imagine, trying with all your might, a more *terrible, *violent way to break the Law of Hospitality, offending God at the same time?
The men in the mob call out to Lot, cowering behind his door, to "bring your guests out, that we may know them." Some modern translations render that as "...that we may have sex with them," but that rendering is subject to translator's bias. The Hebrew word used for "know" is "yadha." Although this word is used a few times in the Old Testament to mean "sexually know," it is used 10 times more often to mean "know about." Therefore, the mob's call "to know" Lot's guests implies a demand to interrogate and question them, to know who are the strangers in their city. (That some modern translators insist on rendering "yadha" in a sexual way merely reflects the personal bias of the translators. If your copy of the Bible has such a rendering, you need a better Bible translation.) However, it is undeniable to anyone who has studied the practices of ancient cultures -- and also studied the Genesis story of that sinful city, Sodom -- that the mob very likely planned rape as part of their interrogation. Their call to bring the guests out "that we may know them" was a ruse, a transparent trick -- they didn't just want to find out who the guests were, they wanted to rape and brutalize them!
Understandably, Lot is both frightened and horrified. Frightened, because the mob outside his door is too many for him to fight off -- he has only the women of his family to aid him, his own sons-in-law having abandoned him. Horrified, because he knows something the mob does not: His guests are not ordinary guests, they are *Angels of God. This raises his requirement to protect them even higher than it otherwise would have been, which was already very high. Knowing one man cannot hold out for long against the mob, and having no defenses, Lot tries to appease the mob by offering to throw his own daughters to them. Why? It's obvious. Lot *knew the men in the mob were not homosexuals, *not like the homosexuals you and I know. A real homosexual isn't interested in sex with women. That's why heterosexuals think they're so odd; that's why they're called "homosexuals." If Lot had honestly thought the men in the mob were homosexuals, as we know them, he wouldn't have bothered offering up his daughters -- it would be illogical. What Lot *did know was, the men of Sodom would stick it to *anything; it didn't matter what gender. Male, female, old, young, human, animal -- they didn't care. And what's every rapist's fantasy? A young virgin, one who's never seen a man's penis, much less been forcibly invaded by one.
That's why Lot offered the girls up: It was Lot's last hope, a desperate effort to avoid bringing out his house-guests, to preserve the sacred hospitality of his home and the safety of the Angels.
Unfortunately for Lot -- and, in the end, for the men of Sodom -- they were so intent on humiliating and degrading Lot and his guests that they passed up the chance to rape the girls on the spot. Not because they were homosexuals, uninterested in women, but because they had a bigger, better game in mind.
Now, at this point, there will still be some well-meaning but biased Christians who will say, "But God struck the men in the mob blind, and *still they kept wanting to have sex with the Angels! That *proves homosexuality was on their minds!" Not so, and the text itself proves it. Blinded, groping about, and now even more angry than before, the men still insist on bringing out Lot's guests to humilate them and Lot at the same time. It isn't "making love" they have in mind. It isn't merely "sex" they have in mind. Even with their vision taken from them, what they want is to invade the sanctity of Lot's home, to degrade, abuse, and violently *humilate Lot and his guests -- to violate the biggest, most commonly accepted Law known to all: The Law of Hospitality. And it was for that, the final straw, the ultimate insult to God, that *Sodom *was *destroyed.
So, next time someone tells you about Sodom's Sin being "homosexuality," simply suggest they go back and read the story *once *more -- and give them a copy of this essay. Maybe then, with some knowledge under their belt, they'll get the enlightenment from Jesus they've been missing.
p.s. Although much of the foregoing represents original thought, this essay unavoidably stands on the shoulders of writers and scholars greater than I. Thank God for them and their work to bring light and understanding to all who would twist the Scriptures in order to support prejudice, bias, and harm to my Brothers and Sisters under God.
Copyright February 10, 2000, by Buzz Kelly. All rights reserved, except that free distribution via any medium is permitted as long as author's credit is given and no profit is involved.
From: John, 71067,33 #2564814
>>What about Sodom and gomorah<<
Oh, that one is easy.
The story of Sodom had absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. That is quite obvious for anyone who takes the time to read the passages, and the other references to Sodom and the sin of Sodom scattered through the Bible.
But this distortion *is* one of those that has been heavily pushed by people pushing the idea that homosexuality is a sin.
The false connection between Sodom and homosexuality didn't exist until the late 12th Century when it was proposed in a work by Albertus Magnus titled "Summa Theologia". (Magnus was the teacher of Thomas Aquinas who also wrote a book with the same title.) It is based solely upon the misinterpretation of the word "to know" (yadha') in the passage. A review of the Old Testament shows that, out of the 958 times that word was used in the Bible, in at least 943 of those instances there was no sexual implication of any kind, and yadha was NEVER used to denote either homosexual intercourse or rape. The word shakhabh, however, IS used to denote homosexual activity. If there was an intent to mean homosexual intercourse, then the word shakhabh would have been used instead of yadha. That by itself proves that homosexuality was NOT an issue.
As far as the Bible is concerned, the anti-gay misinterpretation is relatively recent. It was made *ages* after the activities mentioned in the Bible. Every prophet who has ever talked about Sodom or the sins of Sodom pointed out Sodom's sins, but homosexuality and homosexual acts were never mentioned. Rather strange if that was *the* sin, as these false prophets have told you. For example:
Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
If you want to insist that the story of Sodom is about homosexuality, then you have to explain why there is such a conspiracy among God's prophets to hide that idea.
OK. Let's think about this for a minute. Let's assume you are right, and that Lot knows what these people really want (that is quite reasonable. As a resident he should.). Let's assume, as you say, that these men are homosexuals. In other words, they want sex only with men, not with women.
So tell me, how is Lot going to turn these people aside from raping the men? Send out his daughters? What are these guys going to do? Fix their makeup and hair?
The very fact that Lot offers his daughters is absolute proof that these people were *not* homosexual. Otherwise the offer had no chance of working, and Lot knew it had no chance of working. He would be better off offering himself, or else offering money, food or wine. And even if they *were* talking about homosexual rape (though that clearly is not the case) it would be the *rape* that would be the sin, not the homosexuality.
I am sorry, but it is obvious to anyone who takes the time to read the story that homosexuality is not an issue, and never was.