When I first started reading David Lamb’s new book about Old Testament-style love I thought to myself, “Yeah, but what does he say about homosexuality?”
Given the current tectonic sexual shifts within Western culture, I imagine others will be searching for the same kind of biblically rooted, pastorally sensitive answers I was interested in. In this final chapter, Lamb doesn’t disappoint; he surprises!
In a sensible, down-to-earth, well-informed examination, Prostitutes and Polygamists exposes and debunks seven important myths about the Bible and homosexuality.
1) Gay Sex Is No Big Deal
“Leviticus clearly teaches that homosexual practice is wrong,” Lamb concludes. “In both verses the act of a man having sex with another man is condemned, and the second law mandates the death penalty.” (163)
He argues the “severity of this punishment suggests that it’s a serious sin.” (163)
2) The Laws Banning Gay Sex Were Temporary
Though some insist such laws banning gay sex no longer apply—in the same way ceremonial food laws are void—Lamb reveals otherwise.
“There is nothing in the context of these Leviticus laws to suggest they were temporary laws meant to apply only to Israel or that it would have been fine in the context of a committed homosexual relationship.” (163)
Here’s the bottom line: “Leviticus 18 and 20 focus on general laws regarding sexual activity and idolatry.” (163)
3) Gay Sex Is a Major Biblical Issue
Though some insist homosexuality is a major biblical issue, Lamb reveals otherwise.
“The Old Testament is much more concerned about adultery, rape, incest, and even more concerned about goat-boiling, than homosexuality.” (164)
The Ten Commandments doesn’t mention gay sex. Leviticus doesn’t mention lesbianism or sexual orientation. And while the OT mentions gay sex twice, it gives us ten verses on adultery/rape, twenty on incest, and three on goat-boiling.
4) God Cares More About Gay Sex Than Other Sins
Let’s stay on this topic of concern a bit longer. In contrast to the twice-mentioned concerns for gay sex, the Old Testament has other preoccupations:
- poor is mentioned 141 times;
- needy appears another 50 times;
- prostitute appears 44 times;
- widow is mentioned another 44 times.
Lamb argues these numbers communicate a lot about who the Bible wants to talk about: “The Old Testament is more interested in the poor, widows, and prostitutes (and even goat-boilers) than homosexuals.” (165)
5) Sodomites Committed Sodomy
In an extended section encompassing most of the chapter, Lamb sheds important biblical light on the most well-known city allegedly connected to homosexuality: Sodom. He debunks two popular perceptions of the city, the first being the residents committed homosexual acts.
As he explains, the text isn’t clear what their sin actually was. While the mob in Genesis 19 intended to gang rape the two angelic visitors, it doesn’t actually say they performed the deed for which they’ve been forever known.
“The text of Genesis 19 does, however, record two sins that were committed by Sodom: inhospitality and injustice.” (177) The prophet Isaiah later linked Sodom to injustice, and Ezekiel condemns them for their inhospitality and pride.
6) Sodom Was Destroyed for Gay Sex, Proving It’s the Worst Sin
The second myth Lamb debunks is that Sodom was destroyed because they were guilty of gay sex. As we see from the text’s above, it wasn’t. Yet Sodom’s fire-and-brimstone destruction has led many Christians to assume homosexual behavior is the worst sin.
Lamb turns our attention to what’s remarkable about Sodom’s destruction: “what is shocking is how the text emphasizes not the divine destruction but the divine compassion.” (167)
Going back to Genesis 13:13, we learn the people of Sodom “were wicked, great sinners against Yahweh.” A chapter later God actually rescues the evil Sodomites. Then Abraham cares about them. Finally, God warns the city before he destroys it.
“[W]e see divine destruction came about only after divine deliverance, divine compassion, divine negotiation, divine reconnaissance, divine patience, and divine warning.” (176)
7) Jesus ‘Woed’ Homosexuals
While Jesus avoids the topic of homosexuality, he doesn’t ignore the city of Sodom. Yet “he never says God hates Sodomites, and he never associates the city with sexual immorality.” (180)
Instead Jesus connects Sodom to inhospitality, using their example to warn Galilean cities—to get his neighbors attention.
“For us today, rough equivalents to Jesus’ audience [would be people] from our own country, our own denomination, even our own church.” (181)
Lamb concludes, “Perhaps followers of Jesus should follow Jesus’ example and save our strongest rhetoric not for strangers or people outside the church but for those closest to us.” (181)
No doubt homosexuality is an important culture and church issue. Yet engaging Lamb’s book will put it and other sexual issues in their proper biblical context.
Prostitutes and Polygamists is the aperture through which you and those you teach will discover and encounter the God who behaves graciously when humans behave badly.