Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth…

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The talk was well received, thank you. It wasn’t an attempt to provied an alternative scriptural interpretation as a foundation for supporting equal marriage, but an account of a continuing journey, and observations about the ministry of Jesus which tend to get overlooked in the discussions. Also a side-swipe at the House of Bishops updated ‘pastoral guidance’, and the forthcoming Franklin Graham UK tour, his “open letter to the UK LGBT community in the UK”, and the petition against the cancellation of venues for the tour.

Your comments are making me look more closely at my understanding of various passages which I have used to support the point of view I am pursuing. So this response is in some respects provisional. As regards your own framework of understanding, as far as I understand it without having read the book, I think your final comment is probably right - “It’s a difficult argument to make” - even if it is a good way to take seriously the God of history.

I’d just like to make a few brief observations on your comments.

Malakos - I understand that the word had come to mean “effeminate”, but if Paul had wanted to refer to the younger/passive partner in a paederastic relationship, as Fee says - “The problem is that there was a technical word for such men, and malakos is seldom, if ever, so used. Since it is not the ordinary word for homosexual behaviour, one cannot be sure what it means in a list like this, where there is no further context to help.” Do you think Paul was referring to effeminate behaviour in general? The other problem is that the word is only used once in the NT, and in a list which provides no explanatory context for its meaning. My NIV has “male prostitutes”, but there are probably as many translations as there are versions of the bible. At this point, you may well be justified in saying “Read the book!”.

Paederasty - I’m sure I read somewhere that although the practice was widespread, it was also widely abhorred - (probably not least by the young victims). I’ll have to try to find the source of the idea. You do say “it’s probably impressionistic” - but again there are those who maintain that the three types of same-sex practice accounted for the vast majority in Paul’s time. (Sources).

The point I was making about idolatry and same-sex practice was that male prostitution to do with cultic festivals and the shrines was very prominent in the Graeco-Roman world of Paul’s time, besides the other two types of same-sex practice which tend to be identified. But the argument is to ask whether anything like committed same-sex relationships are mentioned in the histories of the ancient world. N.T.Wright says there is, but then only cites Nero and his castrated slave boy, which isn’t really a good example of supposed widespread practice, let alone a model which might describe committed same-sex relationships today.

I get your point about same-sex practice belonging “to a narrative about the land” (out of which Israel would be “vomited” if she engaged in such things). But is this more than a cultic practice? Philo understands the Leviticus 18 passage to refer to male temple prostitution (The Special Laws, III, Vii, 40-42 [40]). Robert Gagnon (no supporter of same-sex relationships) holds the same opinion, given the context of Canaanite and Egyptian idolatry (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, P.130).

Of the passages you cite to do with male prostitution (Deut. 23:17; cf. 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 23:7), two refer to Male shrine prostitution “in the land”, and two to male shrine prostitutes in the temple. My assumption is that male prostitution of this kind was carried over from the practices of the inhabitants of the land. Whatever tha case, the argument still stands that no other form of same-sex practice is in view in the OT.

So I do think the argument that same-sex relationships are prohibited on the basis of biblical texts is very weak. In the end, the trump card for those holding this view is Genesis 2, and the marriage covenant in particular. This is a variation of the “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” argument, but also points to a way of reading the bible which is literal and dogmatic. The verses do not say that any variation whatsoever in the covenant is illegitimate, as the numerous commands for variations in the OT demonstrate.

I’m not pursuing an exhausting exchange of views, as I haven’t read your book (yet). On the other hand, if you have some further information which you think I should know about, I’d appreciate it.