An examination of homophobia, fact, and faith

From: (Deacon Maccubbin)
Newsgroups: alt.homosexual
Subject: Putting Sodom to Rest (LONG!)
Date: Fri, 03 Mar 1995 22:51:11 -0500
Organization: Lambda Rising Bookstores

[ Minor additions to this exaustive study of the nature of Sodom's sin added by ]

I think it's time to call the fundamentalist right on their claim that the Sodom story gives proof of God's wrath against homosexuality. Let's start with what their own primary authority -- the Bible -- says about Sodom's sins.

Following is a list of every verse in the Bible that refers to the sins of Sodom. Perhaps they can now point out every time that homosexuality occurs in this list:

Genesis 13:13: But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly. (Nope, no homosexuality mentioned there)

Genesis 18:20: And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous. (Nope, no homosexuality mentioned there)

Genesis 19:13: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD. (Nope, no homosexuality mentioned there)

Deuteronomy 29:17-26: And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them...And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and the overthrow of Sodom...which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath...Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers...For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them. (Just idolatry and false gods; nope, no homosexuality mentioned there)

Deuteronomy 32:32-38: For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter...And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. (idolatry again; nope, no homosexuality mentioned there)

Isaiah 1:9-23: Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah...How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. (hmmm... murder, greed, thievery, rebelliousness, covetness; nope, no homosexuality there)

Isaiah 3:8-15: For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory. The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves. For ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? (mistreating the poor; nope, no homosexuality mentioned there)

Isaiah 13: 11-19: And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible...And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. (haughtiness, yes, but no homosexuality.)

Jeremiah 23:10-14: For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth...For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD...And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. (adultery, lying by priests and prophets; nope, no homosexuality in there)

Jeremiah 49:16-18: Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart...Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. (evil and pride, but still no homosexuality)

Jeremiah 50:2-40: Declare ye among the nations...say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces...thou hast striven against the LORD...for she hath been proud against the LORD...As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein. (there's that idolatry and pride again, but still no homosexuality)

Lamentations 4:3-6: ...the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness. The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them. They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills. For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her. (cruelty, failure to tend the young and the poor, but still no homosexuality)

Ezekiel 16:49-50: Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Well THAT's pretty clear, huh? But what are we missing in that list? Oh yeah...homosexuality)

Amos 4:1-11: Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. (oppression, mistreating the needy...still no homosexuality)

Zephaniah 2:8: I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah...This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts. (there's that pride again, and the intimation of inhospitality, but still no homosexuality)

Well, so much for the Old Testament's linkage of Sodom with homosexuality. Maybe the fundamentalists were referring to something in the New Testament? Let's see...

Matthew 20:11: And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire 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 Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Jesus said these words; they draw a comparison to inhospitality, but there's still no homosexuality there)

Matthew 11:19-24: The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners...Then began Jesus to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes...And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day...But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. (They ridiculed Jesus and treated him with utmost inhospitality, refusing to repent...but still no mention of homosexuality)

Mark 6:10-11: And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Another repetition of the instruction against inhospitality, but still no mention of homosexuality)

Luke 10:10-12: But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say. Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. (There's that inhospitality reference again, but still no homosexuality mentioned)

Luke 17:26-29: And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. (still no mention of homosexuality)

2 Peter 2:6: And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly. (Ungodly? Is that idolatry again? It sure isn't 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. (Awww...this one comes SO close, but no cigar; the Greek word translated here as "fornication" is "porneia" and had a distinctly heterosexual connotation; and the "strange flesh" was a reference to angels or "sons of God" that WOMEN had sex with [see Genesis 6:1-4] according to Jewish tradition; still no mention of homosexuality)

Well, except for a brief mention of Sodom in Revelations (where there is no reference to the city's supposed sins), I'm afraid we've covered them all. Now it's up to the fundamentalists. Surely they should have no difficulty pointing out ALL the verses in the Bible that refer to the sin of Sodom being that of homosexuality.

But they'll have to make them up first. ;-)

[ Begin first addition ]

At the center of Sodom's greatest transgression was the violation of the ancient code requiring hospitality. Jesus in recalling the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah says nothing regarding any sexual improprieties. Instead he speaks of these cities exemplifying the fate of those towns which refuse to welcome the apostles.

A further example of the significance of the hospitality code is found in the book of Joshua. Prostitution was condemned in the early writings of the Old Testament. Yet Joshua spared the life an admitted prostitute before destroying the city of Jericho in return for her hospitality to a pair of Joshua's spies who were being pursued by agents of the King of Jericho.

"They burned the whole city and everything in it... But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho." Josh. 6:24-25 (NIV)

Nonetheless centuries passed, and generations of Jewish scholars continued to understand the divine retribution against Sodom and Gomorrah to be a lesson on arrogance and inhospitality. Only later did Church moralists refer to the Sodom story in the context of sexual practices. (Such as when, late in the first century A.D., the writer of the book of Jude asserts, "Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves over to sexual immorality (Jude 1:7).") Still, this is no indictment against the homosexual orientation. Some translations of this passage speak of the Sodomites going after "strange flesh" (Greek - *sarkos heteras*). The word *heteras* means "different" (compare "hetero"sexual). As is made clear by apocryphal Hebrew writings, Jude is referencing the Sodomites' attempt to rape angels. It is worth noting that Jude is the only biblical writer who connected the sins of the Sodomites to sexual immorality and still was ambiguous regarding homosexuality.

[ End ]

But we're not done yet. The traditional concept of the sin of Sodom arises from the fact that the Hebrew word here translated as "to know" (yadha) is used by itself in ten places in the Old Testament to denote heterosexual intercourse. In five additional texts it is used in conjunction with mishkabh (in this context, "to lie") to mean the same thing. But yadha appears by itself no less than 943 times in a nonsexual connotation, to simply mean "get acquainted with" or "learn of."

There is no Old Testament text in which yadha refers to homosexual coitus, with the single exception of this disputed Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis. The less ambiguous word shakhabh, however, is used for homosexual, heterosexual, and bestial intercourse. Shakhabh appears fifty times in the Old Testament; if it had been used instead of yadha in the Sodom story, the meaning of the text would have been unmistakable. As it is, we have no grounds to assume that the men of Sodom wanted to rape the visitors.

An alternate theory has been developed by some biblical scholars. Since yadha commonly means "to get acquainted with," the demand to "know" the visitors may well have implied some serious breach of the rules of hospitality. Several considerations provide support for this view.

In the first place, Lot was not a native of Sodom, but had the status of resident alien, or "ger." As such, he may not have had the right to admit unidentified foreigners to the city. City gates were closed at night expressly to prevent lawless or subversive aliens from entering on unknown errands, and travelers carried credentials because they might at any time be asked to prove that they were abroad on legitimate business. Thus we might translate "Bring them out to us, that we might know them" as "We wish to know whom you are bringing into our city" or (in the vernacular of WWII German movies) "Ve vant to see your papers!" Lot's refusal to turn his visitors over to this horde of vigilantes is totally in keeping with the then contemporary laws of etiquette, because in those days no civic police force protected strangers in a city. Any kind of robbery or physical abuse could have been meted out to the two angels if he had agreed to surrender them, but in his home they were safe. He was obliged to protect them as honored guests. It is certain that the Sodomites were demanding he violate the code of hospitality, but not AT ALL clear from the text that they were inclined to indulge in homosexual acts.

Lastly, even if the fundamentalists must insist (evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the strangers, that's a matter of rape, not homosexual love. I think we can all agree that rape is right up there on the list of big sins, and further that it is an act of power, control, and violence, not of love between consenting adults.

There's another Old Testament passage that is relevant. The story is found in Judges 19:14-28. It bears a striking resemblance to the Sodom story -- a traveler arrives at the city (in this case, Gilbeah). There he meets an old man who is, like Lot, a resident alien. The old man warns the traveler that he should not stay in the town square, and he extends the hand of hospitality in accordance with Holy law, inviting the traveler to share his abode for the night. But the men of the city surround the old man's house and demand that the traveler be sent out so "that we may know him" (there's that "yadha" again). The old man refuses, but offers his virgin daughter and his concubine to the mob instead. When the crowd refuses the offer, the old man throws his concubine outside as a diversion, whereupon the "base fellows" in the mob rape and abuse her all night, leaving her dying at the threshhold. When the Israelites learn of the abuse of the concubine, they rise up against Gilbeah and, with God's help, destroy the city.

Here we have an instance almost identical to Sodom, in which a city is destroyed following inhospitality to strangers, and a clear case of rape. Except this time it was a heterosexual rape. Yet no one uses this story to imply God's condemnation of heterosexuality in general. It is specious, then, to suggest that the story of Sodom is instructional with regard to homosexuality in general.

Those who insist that Sodom was destroyed for homosexuality are denying the very Bible they claim to revere, and attempting to push a laden camel through the eye of a needle. They are required to make five outrageous leaps of faith: (1) homosexual love is equal to rape; (2) "yadha" meant homosexual acts only once or twice and something else 953 times; (3) all of the other references to Sodom's sins contained in the Bible are in error, incomplete, or obfuscatory; (4) the strict codes regarding hospitality and the safety of travelers were immaterial; and (5) the concubine of the man of Gilbeah was a male.

[ Begin second addition ]

We should also remember that the monotheism of Judaism was in strict competition with many other religions of the time (i.e. fertility cults, cult of Baal etc) which practiced sodomy as part of their rituals etc. So, what we have is the authors of the Old Testament reflecting a demand that the Israelites give their loyalty and fealty to the ONE GOD (ignoring the implied impressing of servitude in Proverbs 8:22 of course), lest they face judgement.

So, how come we never see people condemning those against immigration as Exodus 22:23 demands? (You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.) I guess the Nativist Party is going to Hell along with anybody against immigration. What about Exodus 22:2? (If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred; BUT if it happens after sunrise, bloodguilt is incurred). All you need is a Timex to get off the hook! How about Exodus 22:25? (If you lend money to my people; to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.) Hmm... Looks like the whole banking industry is Hell-bound with those evil Sodomites too! And what of those who despise the President, or their local Governer or Mayor? Exodus 22:28 (You shall not curse God, or curse a leader of your people.) For all you graduates of "tough love" out there, may I present Exodus 21:17 (Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.) And for all you premaritals: Exodus 22:16 (When a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married, and lies with her, he shall pay the BRIDE PRICE for her and make her his wife. But if her father refuses to GIVE her to him, he shall pay an amount equal to the BRIDE PRICE for virgins. (Just 199.99$ at Wal-Mart.))

Has the point sunk in yet? These Holiness Codes, and similar systems that are found in the Old Testament, were there to make absolutely certain someone converted to Judaism and did not stray into pagan religions of the time. Homosexuality was a practice of some of the pagan religions of the time, and thus we see the OT condemning that act because of what it represents in the eyes of the authors: straying from the fealty of Yahweh. So, any sinners from the previous passages will be in Hell along with those "Sodomites" they so despise. Unless, you are willing to concede the point that these are historical rules meant to be examined in light of HISTORY. Then, when Jesus comes along and fulfills the scriptures, we shall see that Jesus (according to those who wrote about him) brought a message of unconditional love. So, before we talk any more about how those fill-in-the-blanks will burn in fiery damnation, maybe we should all bust open our fun-filled copies of Exodus to discover why we might have first class reservations in Motel Hell (I Know I do. I'm wearing a cotton/polyester blend shirt, which is a definite no-no. I am truly evil INCARNATE).

And what if this whole Sodom thing is merely an attempt to convince as many people as possible to "join the party" with all the "believers" who will also find themselves attenting the eternal bar-b-q? What if this entire Sodom=homosexuality ploy is nothing more than a baseless perversion of God's word? Perhaps something that was originally well-intended, but which now has gone horribly awry. What of that? We've seen the refutation of Sodom=homosexual at the Bible's own hands. The prohibitions imposed against the Israelites were lifted by both God and Jesus. (By Jesus in Matthew 6:25 and Mark 7:15. God gives Peter a vision stating the same in Acts 10:9-15.) Those seeking to vilify homosexuals and whom contend that they are sinful and damned by God, simply because of a mistaken belief in ancient purity codes -- which have been revoked by God and Jesus -- need to be corrected. The perversion of God's word is punishable by eternal damnation. (Revelation 22:18-19) Let us see to it that no more go to Hell than need be.

[ End ]

(Copyright 1994, Deacon Maccubbin; permission for reprinting electronically hereby granted. Authors e-mail address:

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