Thursday, July 16, 2015

Huffington Post: 'The Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality'

Responding to novel misinterpretations of Genesis 19:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.[i]

By Matthew J. Bell

According to a recent article appearing in the leftist Huffington Post, one Adam Phillips[ii] argues that “The Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality. …”[iii] Phillips sketches his ahistorical interpretations to half a dozen of the Bible verses that condemn same-sex sexual activity. I will here look at defending the received interpretations to two of those six passages: Genesis 19:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.[iv]

One point should be made by way of a preface, however.

The Bible’s positive doctrines concerning marriage are always presented given in relation to men marrying women. This is important to emphasize. The historic Christian teaching concerning marriage – namely, that it involves persons of opposite gender – “…follows …from the whole scriptural vision of what man and woman are, of what sexuality means, and of the nature of morality.”[v] The foundation of “opposition” to homosexual sexual activity is that such activity militates against every positive statement regarding human sexual function and marriage made in Scripture. This point is so strong that we may say:

“If the classical texts on homosexual acts were to be removed altogether from Scripture, the immorality of such acts would still be an obvious implication of the biblical view of sexuality.”[vi]

The chief, but not sole, textual basis for this positive doctrine is set forth in Genesis.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.[vii]

This foundational principle is repeated by Jesus.

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”[viii]

“[T]he story of Lot at Sodom is probably intended to condemn inhospitality rather than homosexuality.”[ix]

Towards this conclusion, several Scriptures are sometimes cited. For example, in an allusion to the account of Lot in Genesis 19, Hebrews 13:2 exhorts readers:

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”[x]

Ezekiel 16:49 is also quoted.

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”[xi]

It is then remarked that “homosexual sex” is not enumerated in the brief list of Sodom’s sins and that the men of Sodom displayed a decided lack of hospitality toward the strangers.

However, this hardly settles the matter. For one thing, ending the second quotation at verse 49 truncates Ezekiel’s discussion of Sodom. Verse 50 continues with the comment that the people of Sodom:

“…were haughty and did detestable things before me.”[xii]

Jude 1:7 might provide insight into what these “detestable things” were, more precisely.

“…Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. ...”[xiii]

This reference to Sodom’s “sexual immorality” comports with the account given in Genesis 18-19. Here are a few relevant bits from chapter 19.

[T]wo angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

The key point of dispute is verse 5. The men of Sodom call out to Lot. The Original and True Douay Old Testament gives the verse as: “And they called Lot, and said to him: Where are the men that came in to thee at night? bring them forth hither that we may know them.”[xiv]

Responding to an author who holds that “know them” should be understood to mean “get to know them” in the sense of “interrogate them,” Gregory Koukl writes:

Though the [Hebrew] word [yada] does not always have sexual connotations, it frequently does, and this translation [i.e., have (sexual) relations with] is most consistent with the context of Genesis 9:5. There is no evidence that what the townsmen had in mind was a harmless interview. Lot’s response – “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly’ – makes it clear they had other intentions.

In addition, the same verb is used in the immediate context to describe the daughters who had not “known” a man and who were offered to the mob instead. Are we to understand Lot to be saying, “Please don’t question my guests. Here, talk to my daughters, instead. They’ve never been interviewed”?

Yes, they were prideful, gluttonous, lazy, and inhospitable. Yes, they seemed to be rapists who humiliated their victims. Yes, they lacked love and mercy. But they also had what Paul called “unnatural passions”. They rejected the natural sexual function of human beings, and exchanged that function for unnatural, homosexual ones.

This element of sexual perversity simply cannot be explained away. And the crux of the sexual perversity was the homosexual nature of the sex acts.

1 Corinthians 6:9 does not pertain to homosexuality.

The considerations turn on the sense of the two Greek terms that Paul used: malakoi and arsenokoitai. Here is a representative presentation of this objection, with replies interspersed.

a. “Many modern Christians have embraced false teaching about 1 Corinthians 6:9. They arrive at their false teaching by assuming that the Greek words, malakoi and arsenokoitai mean ‘homosexual’. … In the first century AD, no one would define malakoi to mean homosexual. The Greek word malakoi was rarely, if ever, used in the first century to indicate homosexual men and was never used to indicate lesbians. In the first century AD, no one would define arsenokoites to mean homosexual. …Based on the extant Greek manuscripts available to us today, the Greek word arsenokoites was rarely, if ever, used to indicate homosexual men and was never used to describe lesbians. Therefore, when someone quotes 1 Corinthians 6:9 or 1 Timothy 1:10 to ‘prove’ that God is against homosexuality, they are conveying nothing more than their opinion, without any basis in fact.”[xv]

“Most Greek lexicons do not define arsenokoites based on historical usage of that word. …Since the ancients never used the arsenokoit stem to mean homosexual, every Bible translation which translates arsenokoites to mean homosexual is wrong. …”[xvi]

“…Scripture cannot mean now what it did not mean then. Translating malakoi as homosexuals imposes a twentieth or twenty first century cultural meaning on the text which malakoi did not mean in the first century. If malakoi was not a universally understood reference to homosexuals in the first century when Paul used it, then malakoi does not mean homosexual today. The Malakos Word Group[:] 1.The word malaka, with the general meaning soft, is used three times in the New Testament, Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 10:1. It is translated disease in the KJV and sickness in the NAS. The Greek word malaka has nothing to do with homosexuality 2.The word malakos occurs four times, in three verses in the New Testament. In Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25, Jesus uses the word to refer to soft clothing. In the Bible, Jesus never used the malakos word group to mean homosexual. Paul uses malakoi (the plural of malakos) in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Some translations translate malakoi as ‘male prostitutes.’ (NIV, New Century, NRSV, NLT, ISV, WEB).”[xvii]

A chief difficulty with the above presentation is the subtle confusion embodied in the aphorism: “…Scripture cannot mean now what it did not mean then.” This saying, or something relevantly similar to it, is indeed a common rule-of-thumb in Evangelical hermeneutics. Numerous popular-level hermeneutical primers express the sentiment in one way or another.[xviii] William Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. put the point this way: “Our goal [in the interpretive process] remains to hear the message of the Bible as the original audiences would have heard it or as the first readers would have understood it.”[xix]

I do not have any quibble with this principle, expressed this way. I can agree that a text cannot mean for us what it did not mean for its original audience. Hence, whatever Paul meant is what the text means.

However, in this case, Brentlinger goes beyond this basic acceptable guideline. For this point of disagreement, apparently, concerns the question of what Paul meant.

Brentlinger seems to be insisting that Paul’s could not have intended “malakos and arsenokoites” to mean general “homosexual [activity]” in virtue of the fact that there is no recorded use of these words meaning “homosexual [activity]” prior to Paul’s use.[xx]

It is important to see that that this constraint is not the same the standard Evangelical heuristic rehearsed above. The Evangelical principle compels today’s readers to understand Paul’s text the way that he meant it when he wrote it. Brentlinger’s principle attempts to limit Paul’s meaning itself to whatever meaning prevailed in Paul’s day. However, not only is this constraint different from the usual hermeneutical principle, it is also quite unwarranted.

Here is a quick illustration. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “gay” traces its origins back to the 12th-14th centuries, at which time it meant, variously, “wanton, lewd, lascivious” and “full of joy, merry; light-hearted, carefree”.[xxi] According to the same source, at some point between the 1890s and 1940s, the word began to be used to designate “homosexuals.” Now, it seems undeniable that there was an author or speaker who first introduced this latter meaning. Let us call this (seemingy) unknown person “John Doe.” And let us imagine that the word was introduced in a text, call it “Text A.”

Finding Text A, would a reader be justified in arguing: “Well, John Doe’s cannot be using the word ‘gay’ to designate homosexuals because, up to this point, the word has never been used this way”? Apparently not. We are, after all, supposing that John Doe basically originated a shift in meaning.

It is true that the principle “a text cannot mean for us what it did not mean for its original audience” demands that if John Doe used the word “gay” to mean “carefree,” then we are compelled even today to read the occurrences of the word “gay” in Text A as meaning “carefree.” However, the principle does not limit John Doe himself to mean by “gay” only what had been meant before him. He is free to originate a shift in meaning.[xxii]

Therefore, the lack of textual evidence cannot prevent Paul from originating a new meaning for the words “malakos and arsenokoites”.

In fact, with respect to the term “arsenokoites,” “…the term …[appears neither] in classical Greek literature… [nor] in the Septuagint.”[xxiii] However, it then seems plausible to maintain that “…Paul could have been the originator of the term.”[xxiv]

“[B]ut, if Paul is the first in extant literature to use this compound term, then it is probable that he, as a Jew, is reflecting the sense of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13…”.[xxv] To put it differently, it is plausible to hold that Paul meant to coin an expression “malakos kai arsenokoites” to designate any (or, at least, any male-male) homosexual sexual pairing.[xxvi]

Against this, alternative meanings are proposed.

b. “Malakoi[xxvii] The cultural historical religious context of 1 Cor 6:9 was temple prostitution. …English translations did not translate malakoi to mean homosexual until the Amplified Bible in 1958. 3. The word malakoi in New Testament times, was sometimes an epithet for being effeminate, not homosexual. …The remarkable semantic shift in the meaning of malakoi, which by 1958, came to equate malakoi with homosexuality instead of softness, moral weakness or effeminacy, was not prompted by new linguistic evidence. Instead, cultural factors influenced modern translators to inject anti-homosexual bias into their translation.”[xxviii]

Brentlinger complains about a “shift” in translation – from “effeminate” to “homosexual” – that he blames on “anti-’gay’” ideology.

Homosexuality was very common in the ancient world. It was practiced by both males and females (the female version was then known as “tribadism”). Greece in particular had a long history of this. It has been said of Plato’s dialog the Symposium, which is a discourse which revolves heavily around the notion of “love,” that is has mainly in focus male-male homosexual love.

It was a common attitude in the Greek world that males were superior and, therefore, the idea of being “partners” with a female was unimaginable. It was commonly held that for true, reciprocal “love,” a male would need another male, since only males were capable of equality with other males.

However, while it is true that, in general, many Greek (usually aristocratic) men engaged in activities that – by modern reckoning – we would term “homosexual acts,” this generality must be qualified in several important ways.[xxix]

For instance, of the acts that we would today call “homosexual,” the Greeks had a sort of rough-and-ready distinction between respectable and unrespectable acts. Chiefly, even if incredibly, sodomy – in the technical sense of penile-rectal penetration – was anathema.

The passive, male homosexual partner in an anal-penetrative situation was called a “kinaidos.” (This is another indicator that Paul wished to condemn a broader spectrum of conduct than anal-penetration with his pair “malakos kai arsenokoites.” His neologistic phrase is broad enough to forbid the “intercrural” (i.e., “between the legs”) relations that Greco-Romans often viewed as permissible, even when being the recipient of anal-rectal penetration was not viewed as permissible.)[xxx]

Such a person was considered to be “effeminate” in the dual sense of being weak and degenerate. A kinaidos was thought, ipso facto, to be unfit for political office. The reason for this was because it was believed that since a kinaidos allowed himself to be used sexually, he was disposed to allow himself to be used in politically.

We might find this unbelievable today since – collectively – we seem incapable of imagining a situation in which male homosexual sex acts are permissible, but anal-penetrative sex is censured. If anything, though, this simply reveals the limits of our imagination. For it turns out that, during the relevant Grecian period, “respectable” or “allowable” homosexual sex stopped at inter-crural relations.

This is manifest in Plato’s account of Socrates’ interaction with Callicles in the dialog titled, Gorgias.[xxxi] The Sophist Callicles is advancing against Socrates a position of more or less thorough-going hedonism. At one place[xxxii] Socrates basically argues that it is obvious that being a passive sodomite (catamite) could not by any stretch – no pun – be deemed “good.” Callicles is shamed into conceding the point.

Therefore, we say that the main “shift,” circa 1958, that can be adduced from the translation choices made in that era, is a shift in general awareness of the connotations of “effeminacy.” The historical link between allowing oneself to be dominated sexually (by being sodomized) and letting oneself be dominated in other respects (e.g., politically and socially) had arguably been forgotten. Hence, the “shift” occurred in the minds of readers when the general population largely lost track of the connexion between political and sexual weakness.

A malakos is “weak” in an almost masochistic sense. However, for those who, by the 1950s, had begun to view “effeminacy” only in terms of superficial qualities – e.g., characteristics of style and dress, etc. – it was necessary to update the translation with a word that made explicit the full range of meaning designated by malakos. Given the circumstances, “homosexual” is perhaps the best word choice available. Although, I might agree that it would be far better to restore in readers the awareness that political and sexual weakness are directly related.

“Historical evidence – the way the arsenokoit stem was actually used in the first century AD – indicates that the arsenokoit stem referred to: 1. Rape 2. Sex with angels or the gods 3. Anal sex with one’s wife 4. Masturbation[xxxiii]Arsenokoitai has never been a reference to a lesbian couple or a gay male couple. Instead, in the first century, arsenokoitai referred to shrine prostitution or rape or having sex with angels. That is the behavior Paul was describing when he used the Greek word, arsenokoitai.”[xxxiv]

“Dr. Ann Nyland, Faculty in ancient Greek language and Ancient History in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, the University of New England in Australia, Translator of The Source New Testament and The Gay and Lesbian Study Bible, says about arsenokoites: ‘The word arsenokoites in 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10 has been assumed to mean homosexual. However the word does not mean homosexual, and its range of meaning includes one who anally penetrates another (female or male), a rapist, a murderer or an extortionist. When used in the meaning anal penetrator, it does not apply exclusively to males as the receptors, as it was also used for women receptors. …”[xxxv]

We note, at this point, that the semantic range of “arsenokoit” could be summarized by saying that the word has to do with a male misusing his sexual organ,[xxxvi] whether by masturbation or anally penetrating another person – whether the recipient be male, female, or angel; and whether said penetration be willingly or unwillingly (as in the case of rape). These considerations are highly relevant to the issue of why the Bible opposes homosexuality, which we will discuss in the next section.

Finally, Brentlinger lists seventeen words that he asserts “…Paul [could] have used if he intended to condemn homosexuality…”.[xxxvii] These we will now consider.

Number one, Brentlinger lists several words that fairly uncontroversially describe “man-boy” relations: “arrenomanes – meaning mad after men or boy crazy”; “paiderastes …meaning lover of boys”;[xxxviii]paidomanes – a male mad for boys or boy crazy”; “paidophthoros – a Greek word meaning corrupter of boys”.

From the fact that Paul did not choose any of these words, it appears that the safest conclusion is that Paul did not intend to limit his prohibition to cases in which an older male has sexual relations with a younger male.

Neither did Paul intend to merely exclude extraordinary cases in which a younger male has a more dominant role with an older male. For, number two, Paul ignores “eromenos – a sometimes younger male who loves an older male “.

Number three, Brentlinger lists several words that have to do only with various forms of lesbianism: “dihetaristriai…”; “frictrix…”; “hetairistriai…”; “lesbiai…”; “tribades…”; and “tribas…”. As far as I can tell, nothing follows from this except that Paul had something in mind other than lesbianism, either explicitly or narrowly.

Number four, Paul ignores the words that Brentlinger lists in conjunction with “transvestism”: “euryproktoi…” and “kinaidos – a word for effeminate (cinaedus in its Latinized form)”. The designation “...cinaedus is not anchored in ...any ...specific sexual practice. ...[A] cinaedus is a man who fails to live up to traditional standards of masculine comportment... Indeed, the word’s etymology suggests no direct connection to any sexual practice.”[xxxix] “The signifiers of the cinaedus...were closely aligned to those of the castrated males, and were most easily seen in cross-dressing or in long-haired slaves.”[xl] But, again, Paul’s avoidance of these terms tends to demonstrate that his concerns were broader than a simply condemnation of “cross-dressing” or “gender-bending” type behaviors.

Number five, Paul ignores the term “erastes” which means, simply, “lover.” As such, Paul avoids using a term that is extremely broad. His aim, it seems, it not a blanket condemnation of sexual relations – period.

Also avoided is the term “lakkoproktoi” which term, according to Brentlinger, is “a lewd and vulgar reference to anal penetration”. Hence, it appears that Paul sought to avoid slang and vulgarity.

The only term remaining on the list is “pathikos” which Brentlinger defines as “the passive penetrated partner in a male couple”. However, several points seem to explain Paul’s avoidance of it. Firstly, I do not find this term listed in the BDAG. “Pathos” is defined;[xli] but this merely means “passion” – a cognate of which Paul used in Romans 1:26 to denote “disgraceful passions” (pathe atimias). Pathikos may either not have been in wide currency during the Koine period, or it may be that the word had connotations to some of Paul’s hearers that the Apostle sought to avoid. To be more specific, Liddell and Scott give the meaning of “pathikos” as merely “remaining passive”,[xlii] which is not particularly evocative. Additionally, Lewis and Short define the Latin word “pathicus” as designating one “who submits to unnatural lust…”.[xliii]

What do these exclusions show?

Firstly, I submit that had Paul used any of the above words, writers such as Brentlinger would certainly not have said, “Oh, I see now that Paul intended to condemn all homosexual behavior – full stop.”[xliv] Rather, it is plausible to think that the reaction would have been to say, “Right: Paul merely wanted to condemn pederasty, all age-discrepancies, lesbianism, cross-dressing, all sexual relations whatsoever, obscenity, strong passions,” etc.

Paul shrewdly avoids giving any of these “outs” to his hearers. With his coinage of the pair “malakos kai arsenokoites”, what Paul arguably condemns is any non-vaginal-sexual pairing – regardless of the ages of the participants;[xlv] regardless of the gender of the passive partner;[xlvi] regardless of whether the passive partner receives the penis anally or intercrurally;[xlvii] and whether or not cross-dressing is involved,[xlviii] the activity is contractual,[xlix] passionate,[l] or especially obscene.[li]

In contemporary lingo, we might say that Paul has disallowed any “top-bottom” combination of anal sexual partners – whether or not the participants are play “strict” roles or “flip-flop” in a “versatile” manner.[lii] Since this condemnation was so sweeping, and so thoroughly foreign to the Greco-Roman culture, it is no surprise that Paul was impelled to originate his own circumlocution in order to capture his intended meaning.

[i] The following is excerpted from Matthew J. Bell, “Blueprint for Opposing ‘GayMarriage’,” privately circulated, Sept. 8, 2013. Interested readers may request my present working draft by writing to

[ii] According to the byline Phillips is the “Pastor of Christ Church” in Portland, Oregon.

[iii] Adam Phillips, “The Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality. Why Does Franklin Graham Not Get This?” Huffington Post, July 7, 2015, updated July 16, 2015, <>.

[iv] The other four verses are treated elsewhere (e.g., see note i) and, as time permits, I will post fuller defenses of them here. For example, regarding Leviticus 18:22 Protestant apologist Gregory Koukl can be quoted to great effect. “Context is king here. Note the positioning of the verses. The toebah [abomination] of homosexuality is sandwiched between adultery (18:20), child sacrifice (18:21) and bestiality (18:23). Was Moses saying merely that if a priest committed adultery, had sex with an animal, or burned his child on Molech’s altar he should be sure to wash up before he came to temple?” (Gregory Koukl, “What Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?” Stand to Reason, Mar. 8, 2013, <>.) In order words, the prohibition of sodomy is not, in the first place, a matter of hygiene, diet, or ceremony. Sodomy is a moral abomination that “cries out to heaven for vengeance.”

[v] Ronald Lawler, Joseph Boyle, Jr., and William E. May, Catholic Sexual Ethics, Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 1985, p. 199.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Genesis 2:23-24, NIV.

[viii] Matthew 19:4-6, NIV // Mark 10:7-9.

[ix] Richard D. Mohr, “Homosexuality, Prejudice, and Discrimination,” William H. Saw and Vincent Barry, eds., Moral Issues in Business, third ed., Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth, 2007, p. 499. Cf. Richard D. Mohr, “The Case for Gay Marriage,” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, vol. 9, no. 1, 1995, reprinted in Robert B. Baker, Kathleen J. wininger, and Frederick A. Elliston, Philosophy of Sex, 3rd ed., Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998, pp. 190ff.

[x] NIV.

[xi] NIV.

[xii] NIV.

[xiii] NIV.

[xiv] The King James Version renders what was said as: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”

[xv] Rick Brentlinger, “Does 1 Cor 6:9 mean I can’t be gay AND Christian?” GayChristian101, <>.

[xvi] [Rick Brentlinger?] “Define Arsenokoites This word DID NOT refer to homosexuals in ancient usage,” GayChristian101, <>.

[xvii] [Rick Brentlinger?] “Malakoi is NEVER used in the Bible to mean homosexual,” GayChristian101, <>.

[xviii] See, e.g., Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1993 and Henry A. Virkler, Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2001, etc.

[xix] Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Dallas: Word, 1993, p. 11.

[xx] Brentlinger further approvingly quotes James Barr: “The main point is that the etymology of a word is not a statement about its meaning but about its history... [I]t is quite wrong to suppose that the etymology of a word is necessarily a guide either to its ‘proper’ meaning in a later period or to its actual meaning in that period”, The Semantics of Biblical Language, Oxford University Press, New York, 1961, p. 109; quoted by [Brentlinger?] “Define Arsenokoites…,” loc. cit. Brentlinger seems to miss the fact that it is he who is attempting to limit Paul’s meaning by asserting that pre-Pauline etymologies must determine Pauline usage.

[xxi] Douglas Harper, “Gay,” <>.

[xxii] Of course, there is no guarantee that this meaning shift will become widespread, nor even that it will be comprehensible. But if such a meaning shift were not even possible, the word “gay” would not now mean “homosexual” since there was a past time in which there was “no textual evidence” that it meant anything other than “carefree.”

[xxiii] David E. Malick, “The Condemnation of Homosexuality in Corinthians 6:9,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 150, no. 600, 1993, p. 483.

[xxiv] Malick, op. cit., p. 482, n. 15.

[xxv] Malick, op. cit., p. 484.

[xxvi] Paul’s mention of lesbianism in Romans 1 was very rare for the period. But “…if Paul spoke about female homosexuality whereas the literature of his day did not, why was he not able to speak about make homosexuality in a similar way?” Malick, “The Condemnation of Homosexuality in Romans…,” op. cit., p. 340.

[xxvii] Brentlinger himself notes: “…that malakoi means male prostitutes in Paul’s usage is highly unlikely since Paul has already mentioned pornoi, meaning male prostitutes, in this vice list. Because Paul’s reasoning is tight and his writing style spare, it is unlikely Paul would repeat himself by using malakoi with the meaning of male prostitutes”, [Brentlinger?] “Malakoi…,” loc. cit.

[xxviii] [Brentlinger?] “Malakoi…,” loc. cit.

[xxix] For the following points, see K. J. Dover’s seminal study, Greek Homosexuality, London: Duckworth, 1978.

[xxx] “Intercrural” (def.) “between the legs.” Intercrural sex occurs when the “top,” or active-dominant partner, places his penis in between the legs of the “bottom,” or passive-submissive partner.

[xxxi] 494e ff.

[xxxii] Loc. cit.

[xxxiii] Brentlinger, “Does 1 Cor…,” loc. cit.

[xxxiv] Kam, “Does the Bible say homosexuals will go to hell?” GayChristian101, <>.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Or being generally abusive, as in cases of murder or extortion.

[xxxvii] “What words could Paul have used if he intended to condemn homosexuality?” GayChristian101, <>.

[xxxviii] Brentlinger’s enumeration of “paiderasste” is both apparently redundant as well as disingenuous. The “paid-” component clearly hearkens to the word “child,” paidiwn.

[xxxix] Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, 2nd. ed., Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010, p. 193.

[xl] Ray Laurence, Roman Passions: A History of Pleasure in Imperial Rome, New York: Continuum, 2010, p. 85.

[xli] Op. cit., p. 748.

[xlii] Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, with Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie, A Greek-English Lexicon, revised ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940, online at: <>.

[xliii] Charles Short and Charleton T. Lewis, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 1314.

[xliv] Thus, Brentlinger disingenuously titles his article “words that Paul could have used to condemn homosexuality,” leaving readers to believe precisely what I just submitted is implausible – namely, that the selection of any of the avoiding words would have been taken by Brentlinger as conclusive evidence of a total prohibition of non-vaginal, penile sexual activity.

[xlv] This is arguably why he avoids all age-tinged terminology, like paiderastes.

[xlvi] This is arguably why Paul does use “malakos kai arnsenokoites,” since the first conjunct, designating passivity, could apply to anyone who “bottoms” anally, whether catamite men or women; and the latter conjunct, arguably is only meant to broadly designate a “top” man who actively engages in non-vaginal penetration, whether of a male rectum, female rectum, or even his own hand.

[xlvii] This is plausibly the reason that Paul avoids the term kinaidos, which term might tend to give the false impression that Paul is leaving side intercrural sex.

[xlviii] This is evident in virtue of the fact that Paul avoids all of the terms that designate transvestism.

[xlix] Again, it is reasonable to hold that Paul’s odd coinage is intended to avoid leaving readers with the impression that he is merely condemning temple prostitution.

[l] The word pathikos might tend to give the impression that the trouble lies with wayward passions when, in fact, what Paul is condemning is any form of “ectopic” (non-vaginal) penile sexual activity.

[li] Hence, Paul avoids lewd and crude references which, if used, might leave readers with the false impression that what is condemned is some improper way of approaching non-vaginal penile sexual activity, rather than all forms of non-vaginal penile sex – period.

[lii] The “top” is the active, penetrating partner while the “bottom” is the passive, receiving partner. To “flip-flop” means to switch roles. Interestingly, construed this way, Paul’s condemnation arguably would even apply to persons – male or female – who use sexual “toys” or other objects to anally penetrate people. Further, we see that use of terms like pathikos and kinaidos would allowed cases of “flip-flopping” to slip through the cracks, since both of these latter terms tended to mark out “strict bottoms,” that is, persons who habitually play the passive rôle. Paul can therefore be read as forbidding any non-vaginal “bottoming” – even if it is an “experimental,” one-time thing, as opposed to a “lifestyle.”

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Contra the 'Christ Conspiracy' (Et Alia)

4 Reasons to Think That Jesus of Nazareth Really Lived:

1) The Majority of New Testament Scholars Hold to Jesus’s Historicity

The point here is not that there is widespread agreement regarding peripheral details of Jesus’s life. Nor is the point that there is agreement about the interpretation or implications of Jesus’s claims to divinity. Rather, the point is that there is at least one “core” candidate for a historical fact that is both so well-attested that the majority of scholars in the relevant fields assent to it and that implies Jesus’s historicity.

To put it more exactly, it is widely held that there was a religious figure named Jesus who was put to death by the Roman government at the behest of the Jewish leadership. When assessing the historicity of various persons and events, historians employ canons such as multiple attestation[1] and dissimilarity.[2]

The case for Jesus’s historicity can be made adhering to these standard canons. Consider the criterion of multiple attestation. That the four documents known as the “canonical Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are bundled together and presented side-by-side as the “tetramorph” in a collection bound under the title “New Testament” tends to obscure the fact that they are, in fact, considered independent accounts.

This is so in part because each of the four Gospels has different source dependencies. Specialists suggest that Mark draws on antecedent, hypothetical materials, the best known of which is designated “Q.” Matthew and Luke (Acts of the Apostles is something of a second part to Luke), in turn, depend on the material unique to Mark, Q as well as displaying unique features – referred to as “Special Matthew” (M-Source) and “Special Luke” (L-source), respectively. Together, Mark, Matthew and Luke con-stitute the “Synoptic Gospels.”

John diverges and is more or less entirely independent of the Synoptics. The Pauline and (non-Pauline) epistles are distinct from both Gospel strands. In all, we have no fewer than five different, independent lines of source material – Q, Mark, M-Source, L-Source and Paul – all substantiating (but not colluding with respect to) the basic contours of Jesus’s death-event (the “Passion”). Specialists in the field hold that these accounts contain reliable historical information.[3]

Reacting to non-conservative scholar John Dominic Crossan’s (the ex-priest of “Jesus Seminar” fame) idiosyncratic analysis of the historicity of the Gospels’ Passion story, New Testament Profes-sor Mark Powell declares: The “dominant (and, in my mind, more likely) view [is] that the passion narratives are early and based on eyewitness testimony.”[4]

One piece of background information is especially salient about the above remark. JAAR is a publication of Oxford University. From its website: “The Journal of the American Academy of Religion is generally considered to be the top academic journal in the field of religious studies.”[5]

Powell’s opinion, therefore, is neither idiosyncratic nor marginal. It can reasonably be taken to indicate the relevant scholarly consensus. The consensus is that the “Passion” (that is, the torture and judicial execution of Jesus) is considered historical. However, if the Passion is historical, then Jesus existed.

When one thinks on the matter, it seems quite remarkable that academics who entertain radically different background assumptions, who range across the political-theological spectrum and who otherwise express widely divergent opinion about the activities, person and nature of Jesus, should agree on anything. Yet we see that the bulk of writers agree that Jesus existed.

Since the present excursus is directed merely toward establishing Jesus’s bare historicity, I could (and maybe should) leave the matter here. However, Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig argues that one may even go beyond the plain fact of Jesus’s historicity and, on the basis of additional, multiply-attested facts, actually marshal empirical evidence in support of belief in the Resurrection. Craig writes:

“First, the evidence indicates that Jesus’ tomb was found empty on [the] Sunday morning [after his crucifixion] by a group of his women followers. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, “By far, most exegetes [i.e., interpretive scholars] hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.”[6]

“According to New Testament critic D. H. Van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.[7]

“Secondly, the evidence indicates that on separate occasions different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the late Norman Perrin of the University of Chicago, “The more we investigate the traditions with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based.”[8] These appearances were physical and bodily and were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.

“And thirdly, the very origin of the Christian faith implies the reality of the resurrection. We all know that Christianity sprang into being in the middle of the first century. Well, where did it come from? Why did it arise?

“Well, all scholars agree that it came into being because the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead. And they proclaimed this message everywhere they went. But where in the world did they come up with that outlandish belief?[9]

“If you deny that Jesus really did rise from the dead, then you’ve got to explain the origin of the disciples’ belief in terms of either Christian influences’ or Jewish influences. Now obviously it couldn’t have come from Christian influences for the simple reason that there wasn’t any Christianity yet. But neither can it be explained by Jewish influences. For the Jewish concept of resurrection was radically different than Jesus’ resurrection. As the renowned New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias puts it, “Nowhere does one find in the literature [of ancient Judaism] anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus.”[10] Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, therefore, there simply are no antecedent, historical factors that would explain the origin of the disciples’ belief.

“Attempts to explain away these three great facts, like “the disciples stole the body,” or “Jesus wasn’t really dead,” [do not have much explanatory scope or power and] have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The simple fact is that there just is no plausible naturalistic explanation of these three facts. Therefore it seems to me we are amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who He claimed to be.”[11]

2. Even Fervent Anti-Christians Have Seldom Denied Jesus’s Historicity

For example, “Voltaire, no friend of traditional Christianity, sharply rejected such conclusions [as that Jesus was fabulous or mythical], commenting that those who deny the existence of Jesus show themselves ‘more ingenious than learned.’”[12]

Voltaire declared: “[…(N)either Josephus nor Philo made the least mention in any place about the expectation of a Messiah. [Will you conclude from this that there was no Jesus, just like some have dared to conclude from the Pentateuch itself that there was no Moses? No, seeing that after the death of Jesus they wrote for and against him, it is clear that he existed. …[I saw some disciples of [Henry] Bolingbroke, more ingenious than educated, who denied the existence of Jesus because the story of the three wise men and the star and the massacre of the innocents are, they said, the height of eccentricity; the contradiction of the two genealogies that Matthew and Luke gave is especially a reason that these young men allege to persuade themselves that there was no Jesus. But they drew a very false conclusion.]”[13]

Even contemporary “liberal” scholars, such as the above-mentioned John Dominic Crossan, have not usually denied Jesus’s existence. In particular, Crossan “distinguish[es] three stages in the development of the passion stories.” The first of these he labels “the historical passion – what actually happened to Jesus, what anyone present would have seen.”[14]

Regarding this historical category Crossan states: “That he [i.e., Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus …agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.”[15]

3. Those Scholars That Have Denied Jesus’s Historicity Seemingly Do So, Not on Historical Grounds Per se, But on the Basis of Controversial, Idiosyncratic Presuppositions

This hearkens back to the point, made by David Van Daalen and gestured toward by William Lane Craig, that “Most people who object to the story [of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection], …do so on other than historical grounds.”[16] For example, Dorothy M. Murdock’s (“Acharya S”) The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold[17]is a feminist-slanted rewarming of the 18th-century rationalistic “Christ-Myth Hypothesis.” In general, Murdock is apparently motivated by a desire to take “down a peg” any “patriarchal” form of religion that crosses her radar.

“…[B]efore the exclusive domination of a monotheistic male god, much of the world recognized and worshipped a female version…

“[F]or thousands of years …people around the globe recognized and worshipped a female version of God, the Goddess, and their belief in and acknowledgement of this goddess were just as divinely inspired and truthful as the belief in and acknowledgement of the presently accepted version of God.”[18]

That Murdock’s overarching purpose is the pursuit of a feminist agenda is evident from such statements as the following.

“This fascist egoist we call 'God' is a bully, coward and insecure sadist who demands constant approval. …This concept of a male deity who needs to be exalted, thanked, honored, praised, worshipped, venerated, adulated, extolled, complimented, admired, glorified and idolized is completely out-of-date and belongs to the Stone Age…

“[H]umanity must stop putting responsibility for its own messy creation on such an imaginary creature as the male god…”[19]

As far as the “Christ myth” is concerned, Murdock simply latched onto that hypothesis as it was articulated by figures in the French Enlightenment who are today virtually unknown. “At the end of the eighteenth century, some disciples of the radical English deist Lord Bolingbroke began to spread the idea that Jesus had never existed.”[20]

Bolingbroke himself believed that Jesus had existed; but he held that “Christianity was …actually no more than the ‘natural religion,’ and Jesus did not teach anything more than could be discovered by reason.”[21]

Insofar as Bolingbroke’s followers went beyond him on this point, they tended to do so in conformity with an increasing anti-supernatural bias that issued, ultimately, in the demise of deism as a worldview and the rise of atheistic naturalism. One writer called deism an “ephemeral” perspective that is really best-described as “the isthmus between two great continents – theism and naturalism.”[22]

In other words, apart from those who deny Jesus’s existence in order to buttress pet varieties of liberal cultural activism, are those – descended from the stream of deists criticized even by Voltaire – who denigrate anything that smacks of the magical, mystical or paranormal. This is the sort of “Scientistic” thinking that is rightly dismissed for depending on the “dry-as-dust” assumptions of tired, old materialism that even many modern physicists reject.

Yet this sort of anti-supernaturalist bias informs many contemporary, atheistic “Christ myth” proponents. Take Richard Carrier for instance. A Columbia University educated ancient historian, Carrier denies the “Christ event” entirely; and – to borrow a memorable phrase from Jim Brandon – he does so without any “bothersome folderol” like an investigation. His justification? The “smell test.”

“The 'Smell Test' is a common methodological principle in the study of myth, legend and hagiography. This test can be most simply stated as 'if it sounds unbelievable, it probably is.' When we hear tales of talking dogs and flying wizards, we don’t take them seriously, even for a moment. We immediately rule them out as fabrications. We usually don’t investigate. We don’t wait until we can find evidence against the claim. We know right from the start the tale is bogus. Yet the only basis for this judgment is the Smell Test. …

“[A] bias against the supernatural is warranted…”[23]

It is true that some contemporary Gnostics (perhaps like Jay Weidner) do not always fit neatly into either of the above two categories. That is, although some Gnostics may (for all I know) be feminist (or black or whatever) activists in addition to being Gnostics, many (I presume) are not. And most Gnostics cannot plausibly be labeled “naturalists” (in the relevant sense).

Still, Gnostics tend to display an anti-literalist bias; or, if you prefer, they tend reflexively to seek allegorical or mythical interpretations of religious texts. Often this is done without due concern for justifying this hermeneutical approach. The main reason given is typically the bare (if hazy) recognition of “parallels” between the text under review and other texts known or believed to be mythical.

This approach is fraught with danger, however. The existence of parallels between Story A and Story B (where B is chronologically subsequent to A) does not, by itself, guarantee that B is fabulous or metaphorical.

A striking example of this comes to us by way of one Mark Foreman. He writes, concerning the received lore surrounding Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy:

“Imagine we are 2,000 years in the future. Through some sort of cataclysmic event only a handful of documents of the history of the United States are available, and these are just fragments. After sifting through these fragments, a small group of historical enthusiasts come to a radical conclusion: The myth of President John F. Kennedy is based on the myth of Abraham Lincoln. Their reason for such a conclusion: “Just look at all the parallels!”

“Lincoln was elected to congress in 1846; Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946. Lincoln was elected president in 1860; Kennedy was elected president in 1960.“Lincoln” and “Kennedy” each have seven letters in their names. Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy; Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln. Both married, in their thirties, a 24-year-old socially prominent girl who could speak fluent French. Both presidents dealt with civil rights movements for African-Americans. Both presidents were assassinated on a Friday …before a major holiday, while sitting next to their wives. Both their assassins were known by three names consisting of 15 letters (John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald). Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and was captured in a theater; Booth shot Lincoln from a theater and was captured in a warehouse. Both assassins were shot and killed with a Colt revolver days after they assassinated the president and before they could be brought to trial. Both presidents were succeeded by vice presidents named Johnson, from the South, born in 1808 and 1908 respectively.”[24]

Whatever bones we might pick with the facticity of the above accounts, Foreman’s point seems intuitive. Even the presence of numerous striking parallels, by themselves, cannot license the conclusion that an account is fictitious. In a similar way, however, even if the “Jesus story” has parallels in pagan and mystery cultic fables, this establishes neither that Jesus was not a historical person nor even that the Christian confession is false.

As a coda I note that some alleged “parallels,” like those supposedly existing between Christianity and Mithraism or between Christianity and various mystery rites, are not as strong as they might at first glance appear. Take Mithraism. Little is known about the contours of Mithraism. Much of what is speculated comes from the interpretation of bas-reliefs and is surely eminently questionable. With respect to mystery religions, two points should be made. Number one, there is little evidence that first century-Palestine had any substantive contact with such systems. Number two, most historical information about the mysteries comes from second- and third-century accounts. Hence, whatever similarities exist between Christianity and mystery religions is more likely explicable by the predictable borrowing of eclectic mysteries from Christianity, rather than the by the highly unlikely borrowing on the part of the notoriously exclusivistic Christianity from the mysteries.

4. Perpetual Jewish Hatred of Jesus Is Evidence of His Historicity.

Hatred of Jesus has become an integral part of Judaism. Spitting on crosses and burning New Testaments (and possibly worse) continues unabated in some places even to this day.[25] However, it appears that this Jewish vitriol is primarily reserved for real-life persons. Consider that, besides Jesus, animosity is directed against the Roman Emperor Titus, the Spanish Queen Isabella and the German Führer Adolf Hitler. I think it is may be urged, therefore, that the fact that Jesus’s name shows up on such a list is evidence for his historicity.

Aside from Jesus, the only person on Judaism’s traditional “hate list” whose historicity might be reasonably doubted is Haman. However, Jesus’s case is really incommensurable. Haman, if he existed, would have lived five hundred years before the Christian era. We do not have independent attestation of his life. That this poses special historical problems in Haman’s case cannot be doubted. But with respect to Jesus, the situation, as I hope I coherently sketched above, is quite different. Even so, that Haman did not exist is by no means a foregone conclusion.

As the unfortunately too-numerous, hateful anti-Jesus passages have been amply catalogued, and expounded upon, by Gustaf Dalman, Johann Eisenmenger, Heinrich Laible, Alexander McCaul, Peter Schäfer and others,[26] I will not take energy, space or time setting them forth presently. I submit, however, that – when added to, and considered in the light of, the other evidence that I enumerated, these repugnant Jewish texts, libelous though I believe they are, still testify in a backhanded sort of way to Jesus’s historicity.[27]


I have sketched a case in favor of that Jesus’s historicity. I have premised this on four points. First, I cited the fact that the majority of New Testament scholars, despite having many intramural disagreements, agree that Jesus was a real, historical individual. Second, I noted that several noteworthy thinkers – including no less a personage than the brilliant satirist Voltaire – notwithstanding holding thoroughgoing and ardent anti-Christian views, have acknowledged Jesus’s historicity. Third, I observed that many of those that have denied Jesus’s historicity have seemingly done so not on historical grounds, but on the basis of their endorsement of contentious ideologies (such as radical feminism or materialism/naturalism). Fourth, I gestured toward the vast corpus of rabbinic hate literature and noted that Jesus falls into a small class of highly despised individuals, most of whom (Hitler, Isabella, Titus, &c.) were indisputably historical.

While the case that I have outlined is not ironclad, I think that it is cogent. Those who affirm Jesus’s historicity seem to me well-situated with respect to the available evidence. Such an affirmation is therefore rationally justifiable, which is why I recommend it.

[1] I.e., claims, like that Jesus’s tomb was discovered empty by a group of his female followers, that agree in several, independent sources.

[2] I.e., claims, like that Jesus was resurrected bodily - and not, say, translated or transfigured – that diverge notably from the cultural milieu and cannot be easily explained as extrapolations from widely-held assumptions

[3] Even if many non-Christian scholars insist that they also contain legendary accretions.

[4] Mark Allan Powell, book review, John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus, San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1998, Journal of the American Academy of Religion [JAAR], vol. 68, no. 1, Mar., 2000, p. 171 [169-171].

[5] (<>.)

[6] Jacob Kremer, Die 0sterevangelien-Geschichlen um Geschichte, Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977, pp. 49-50.

[7] David Hendrick Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection, London: Collins, 1972, p, 41.

[8] Norman Perrin, The Resurrection According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974, p. 80.

[9] Craig remarks that, while Judaism did have a belief in occasional and exceptional bodily translations into heaven, Jewish beliefs precluded anyone’s “rising from the dead before the general Resurrection” at the final judgment.

[10] Joachim Jeremias, “Die älteste Schicht der Osterüfiberlieferung,” Edouard Dhanis, ed., Resurrexit, Rome: Editrice Libreria Vaticana, 1974, p. 194.

[11] William Lane Craig, debate with Michael Tooley, Univ. of Colo. [Boulder, Colo.], Nov. 1994, <>.

[12] F. M. Voltaire, “De Jesus,” Voltaire, Dieu et les hommes, Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat de Condorcet, and Jacques-Joseph-Marie Decroix, eds., Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, vol. 33, Paris: Société Littéraire-Typographique, 1785, p. 273; cited by Robert Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2000, p. 8.

[13] “…[N]i Joseph, ni Philon, ne son ten aucun endroit la moindre mention de l’attente d’un Messie. Conclura-t-on de là qu’il n’ya a point eu de Jésu, comme qulques – uns onto se conclure, par le Pentateuque méme, qu’il n’y a point eu de Moïse? Non, puisqu’après la mort de Jésu on écrit pour & contre lui; il est clair qu’il a existé.J’ai vu quelques disciples de Bolingbroke plus ingénieux qu’instruits, qui niaient l’éxistence d’un Jésu, parce que l’histoire des trois mages, & de l’étoile, & du massacre des innocent, est, disaient ils, le comble de l’extravagance; la contradiction des deux genealogies que Matthieu & Luc lui donnent, était surtout une raison qu’alléguaient ces jeunes gens pour se persuader qu’il n’ya a point eu de Jésu. Mais ils tiraient une très-fausse conclusion.” Voltaire, Dieu et les hommes, œuvre théologique, mais raisonnable, À Ber-lin: [i.e., Geneva], Chez Christian de Vos, 1769, pp. 153-154; archived on-line at <>.; translated in God and Human Beings: The First English Translation by Michael Shreve, Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2010, p. 104; archived online at <>. Van Voorst adds that the agnostic Bertrand “Russell, in his Why I am Not a Christian [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957], implicitly accepts the historicity of Jesus,” op. cit., p. 16, in the sense that Russell does not launch an outright attack on Jesus’s historicity.

[14] John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, New York: HarperOne, 1995, p. 163. Italics in original.

[15] Ibid., pp. 163-164.

[16] Loc. cit.

[17] Kempton, Ill.: Adventures Unltd. Press, 1999.

[18] D. M. Murdock [Acharya S], The Gospel According to Acharya S, Seattle: Stellar House Publ., 2009, pp. 132-133.

[19] Ibid., pp. 22-23. Besides laying bare her feminist orientation, such ravings also expose her generally muddled thinking. How impressed should readers be with attempts to revivify “goddess worship” when they are told that belief in the “goddess …[is]just as divinely inspired and truthful” as belief in a male god that is, after all, “imaginary”? And if worship of a “male god” can be fairly criticized and dismissed as “outdated,” why should a female goddess have any appeal when such a deity was itself already “outdated” 2,000+ years ago when Christianity replaced it?

[20] Van Voorst, loc. cit.

[21] “Henry St. John Bolingbroke [1678-1751],” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, <>.

[22] James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997, pp. 49 and 53. Metaphysical naturalism is, essentially, atheism.

[23] Richard C. Carrier, Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2012, pp. 114-115.

[24] Mark Foreman, “Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie,” Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds., Come Let us Reason, Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publ., 2012, pp. 184-185.

[25] For an introduction, see Jewish history, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, London and Boulder, Colo.: Pluto Press, 1994. At least one other printing of this book is archived online. See <>.

[26] See, e.g., Robert Travers Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (London: Williams & Norgate, 1903) and Michael Hoffman, Judaism Discovered (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Independent History & Research, 2008).

[27] I also note in passing that the efforts of the Jewish filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici to profit by alleging the “discovery of Jesus’s tomb,” while in my view variously misguided and error-filled, nevertheless presupposes that Jesus existed.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Link Between Sodomy and Usury

Robert Reich is in error.[1] Western civilization, in the sense coined by Charles Eliot Norton, has always (seemingly until the last few decades) linked sodomy and usury – and condemned both unequivocally.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle gives an argument "that usury was similar to unnatural sex [see Politics 1.10.1258b]... Thomas Aquinas ...argued that sodomy and usury were both 'sins against nature, in which the very order of nature is violated, an injury done to God himself, who sets nature in order.' Echoing Aquinas, Dante placed sodomites and usurers in the same circle of Hell [circle 7] in The Divine Comedy [Inferno, cantos 15-17]. In his 1935 tract 'Social Credit,' Ezra Pound ...argued that 'usury and sodomy, the Church condemned as a pair, to one hell, the same for one reason, namely that they are both against natural increase.'"[2]

The moral crisis of unrestricted greed is very real, but – contra Reich – it has much in common with "gay marriage" and abortion.

Greed-driven, predatory business practices are unnatural practices that seek profit at the expense of human lives, just as sodomy and abortion are unnatural practices that variously seek pleasure or economic advancement at the expense of human reproduction (and, thus, at the expense of actual or potential lives).

Sodomy opposes or obstructs familial, procreative increase; usury hinders natural, economic increase by – as Aristotle put it – having sterile money “breed” more money, without being tethered to productive labor.

Thus, the undercurrent of similarity – ignored by or unknown to Reich – is natural fruitfulness. This has been a Western staple since Genesis 1:22.[3]

[1] I am taking it for granted that the quotation is properly ascribed to Reich.

[2] Jeet Heer, Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays & Profiles, Erin, Ontario: Porcupine's Quill, 2014, pp. 19-20; archived online at <>.

Similar statements linking sodomy and usury can be marshaled from Philo of Alexandria and Sts. Augustine and Chrysostom, among many others. (See David Hawkes, "Sodomy, Usury and the Narrative of Shakespeare's Sonnets," Renaissance Studies, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept., 2000, p. 347, <>.)

[3] I wish to thank Michael Hoffman. It is because of his work that I was made aware of the historic Western association of sodomy and usury. See, e.g., his book Usury in Christendom: The Mortal Sin That Was and Now Is Not, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Independent History and Research, 2012.