Saturday, May 13, 2017

Homosexuality and the Bible by Hugh Northcote 1916

"In this awful hollow, this bit of the infernal regions come up to the surface, this hell with the sun shining into it, primitive man laid the scene of God's most terrible judgment on human sin. The glare of Sodom and Gomorrah is flung down the whole length of Scripture history." ~The Historical Geography of the Holy Land By George Adam Smith

The developed legal thought of the Old Testament condemns homosexuality in se. (Lev. 18:22, 20:13) The fact is that the primary problem of revealed ethics, in connection with homosexuality, was to strengthen humanity's uncertain opposition to it,—uncertain, because, if we have regard to humanity as a whole, neither instinct nor religious convictions have been consistently opposed to homosexuality. Revelation set itself to develop the psychological elements which worked contrary to homosexual inclination. This was effected partly by the connotation of violence and license with homosexuality, an idea reflecting a not infrequent actual association, and Scripturally illustrated by the dramatic narratives referred to above. It has been truly said that the glare of Sodom and Gomorrah is reflected throughout the whole Bible. This connotation and this presentation of judgment prefaced the condemnation, by the Law of Holiness, of homosexuality in se; a legal attitude which, as Hirschfeld remarks, reflects a developed social severity foreign to, or only spasmodically apparent in, earlier times.

The New Testament confirmed this antipathy to homosexuality, repeating the denunciation of homosexual prostitution (Rev. 22:15.) and exhibiting the phenomenon as a specially prominent symptom of general moral depravity. (Rom. 1:27; I Cor. 6:9, 10; I Tim. 1:9, 10.) It is clear that there is here an abhorrence of homosexual practices in se: a late allusion, in the homiletic letter to the Ephesians, (Eph. 5: 12) condemns them even if occurring in secret i.e., in circumstances where public decency is not, presumably, infringed.

Indeed, were it not for one Scriptural allusion to homosexual love, we should be forced to conclude that no legitimate or good aspect of it had come within the purview of the inspired writers, that revealed ethics admitted no saving clause in regard to it. But in point of fact, so vast is the scope of the Bible, that we do find a reference to this subject of a different character from the others. This is the hint given us of the relation between David and Jonathan. Saul's coarse abuse of his son (I Sam. 20:30) may imply that he regarded the pair as guilty of the same conduct as thousands of male lovers, especially comrades in arms, in ancient Greece and the Orient. The implication is not indeed certain, and was in any case made by a man who was not weighing his words. Besides, David and Jonathan were both heterosexual, and had families. Yet the phrasing of II Sam. 1:26 puts it beyond a doubt that their mutual affection was erotic, or, to obviate misunderstanding, let us say quasi-erotic, in its intensity.

We seem here accordingly to recognize a homosexual love which, being spiritual in character, does not, so far as it remains true to that character, incur Scriptural condemnation or opposition. Its analogue in the normal sex life is that spiritualized eroticism which, as we have seen, was fairly widely attempted in early Christianity, and which, though regarded by general Christian opinion with anxiety and even suspicion, on account of the failure to realize the theory of it, was never condemned in its own proper character.

The modern sexual scientist may derive encouragement, in his endeavor to make a discriminating ethical estimate of the aspects of the homosexual phenomenon, from this reference and from one or two other Scriptural allusions to intense and demonstrative affection between men. He who in some real though unfathomable sense bore the sin of the world, and who is not ashamed to call us brethren, did not shrink from allowing a man greatly beloved to lean upon His breast. We Westerns, in our narrower humanity, whatever latitude we may allow to women in manifesting their mutual affection, are indisposed to tolerate such expressions of love between men; yet not merely a priori considerations, but scientifically estimated cases indicate that along this line of sublimated spiritualized affection is to be found one of the solutions—the only solution wholly satisfying to the social consciousness—of the problem of homosexuality.

There is no direct Scriptural suggestion that it is worth while extending the ethical estimate of homosexuality beyond the province of quasi-eroticism, the department of secondarily sexual feeling. Homosexual action of a definitely, directly sexual kind, is in the Bible simply labelled bad; and there is no direct encouragement to undertake an ethical analysis of it, no overt sanction of the exercise of discrimination in regard to it. The religious-minded scientist may reply none the less that he takes his stand on the general broad principle of justice, which is an essential part of our conception of the Divine; and that here he has a basis broad enough for his scheme of discriminating judgment.

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