St. Paul and the Identification of Heterosexuals and Homosexuals

May 16, 2020

Earlier Everyone Was Assumed To Be Straight. At the time of the Apostle Paul, and even until the mid 19th century, there was no way to distinguish homosexuals from heterosexuals, for these terms and concepts did not yet exist. All people were simply assumed to be straight naturally and this meant that such a term as “straight” was redundant with respect to sexuality, somewhat like speaking of a round circle, an equal-sided square or a four-legged cow. For Paul, especially as influenced by the Hebrew scripture and culture, sex with someone of the same sex would be considered as unnatural and even a rebellion against God’s primary intention regarding the two sexes, i.e., producing children,* and for which the term “non-reproductive” has been suggested.** Hence it is easy to see why Paul would denounce same-sex sexual activity,*** even as we would most likely have done at that time and with that understanding.

* See Genesis 1:28.

** See Brereton’s comprehensive and rather academic essay on Paul and homosexuality which indicates that sexuality in Paul’s time was much more complex than we normally consider, and the best terms for sexual acts in the Roman and Hellenistic world would be “reproductive and non-reproductive,” such that the term “natural” as used by Paul would be best understood as “reproductive.”

*** See Romans 1:1828.

Earlier Everyone Was Assumed To Be Right-handed. In an analogous vein, Immanuel Kant, prominent scientist and philosopher of the 1700’s and expressing the science of his time, counted all humans as naturally right-handed, and the apparent exceptions (left-handers) were something on the order of cross-eyed people.*

* See Regions (page 40, 2nd paragraph).

Modern Understanding. Today Paul would know that some people are homosexual, i.e., people who are naturally attracted to persons of their own sex, and where same-sex attraction would not be thought of as unnatural at all,* and certainly no more sick or malicious** than writing with the left-hand. Hence today Paul would assert that as a person the homosexual needs salvation just like anyone else, but not as a homosexual.

* Indeed a world with homosexuals, resulting naturally in fewer children than heterosexuals, might even be considered as advantageous today to the extent the world is getting crowded. In this regard see God’s Left Hand Joke.

** The Latin word for left-hand is the root of the English word “sinister.”

Another Analogy. Our understanding of the orbit of the moon around the earth may also be helpful as a further analogy to what has changed in our understanding of sexuality over the last 2,000 years. In Paul’s day the movement of the moon would have been looked upon as a simple, circular orbit around the earth (which is the visual impression) representing, in this analogy, the assumed, universal sexual orientation of the human race at that time, i.e., for the opposite sex, a/k/a reproductive.* Then later, beginning with Issac Newton of the 1600’s, this motion would become recognized as encompassing two distinct and simultaneous movements of the moon: 1. flying past the earth in a straight line and 2. falling directly down onto the earth in a straight line, and together giving the appearance of the single, circular orbit. And now these two movements can represent for us the heterosexual and homosexual orientations of humanity as understood today and both of which are now counted as natural.

* With regard to the orbit of the moon as an analogy we are speaking here of (presumed and universal) sexual orientation and not actual behavior.

Note

This blog is a modification of the first appendix to an essay on Christian Liberty and Promise.

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pmr@kantwesley.com

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