What follows in this paper is not an attack on Dr Graeme Codrington, I am sure he is a wonderful person, and what I remember from the few times I have heard him speak is that he is a articulate, friendly and intelligent man. In addition, this is not an attack on gays, the Bible teaches that real Christians love homosexuals and accept them as people, yet the Christian call is the call of the gospel, that all those who labor and are heavy laden, may come to Christ for rest, and our call to the homosexual is the same as our call to the gossip, murderer, adulterer, liar, they are commanded to repent and have faith in Christ, there is hope and freedom in the gospel.
As many may know, in the recent (August 2008 ) publication of the ‘Baptist Today’ Dr Graeme Codrington wrote an article in entitled ‘Perspectives on Homosexuality’ in which he looks at the texts which were traditionally understood to condemn homosexuality, subsequently concluding that all these references really addressed situations containing inhospitably, idolatry, shrine prostitution, adultery, promiscuity, lust, violence and rap etc (pg18). For those of you who may have read this article and been swept in by the appearance of biblical respect, or for those who are merely inquisitive I wish to examine Codringtons’ use of hermeneutics (science of Bible interpretation).
– Sodom and Gomorra –
Genesis 19 refers to Sodom and Gomorra, (v4-9) which is a story which has traditionally been understood to contain a situation where men of the city wanted to have homosexual relations with Lot’s visitors, Sodom was subsequently destroyed for its pervasive wickedness. Codrington appeals to a excellent hermeneutic, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, and asks that we see what Ezekiel 16:49 says that the sin of Sodom was; there we read that the sin of Sodom was “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness… neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” thus he says, homosexuality was not the issue.
While this argument is partially true, when Sodom was destroyed, homosexuality was only part of its wickedness, this does not negate the fact that homosexuality was also part of the wickedness. We find a similar kind of picture in Romans 1, where homosexuality is given as a symptom of a generally corrupt mankind. As for Codrington’s statement that only those who have prejudged the story can say that the ‘detestable things’ mentioned in Ezekiel 16:49-50 is homosexuality, I would respond, only those with a desire for it not to be homosexuality can say confidently that it was not.
As for Jude 7, Codrington here explains that the ‘strange flesh’ mentioned refers to the men of Sodom desiring the flesh of angels. However this interpretation has a number of problems, if you read the context (as Codrington rightly says you should) you may want to ask these questions: When did the angels invade Sodom and Gomorrah? And, if fallen angels are meant, how can their sin and the sin of the Sodomites apply to us today?[i] Furthermore, certainly the men wanted to engage in homosexual relations with the men at Lot’s door, but they did not know that they were angels. In any case the language of ‘strange flesh’ and its meaning has resemblance to Romans 1:27 which speaks of ‘unnatural use’ in the original languages, all together the evidence lies weightier on the fact that homosexuality was one of the issues of Sodom and Gomorrah.
– The Law –
Next Codrington approaches Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 Here he gives two main reasons why this text against homosexuality should be disregarded:
1) There are verses surrounding this which speak about many other laws which we do not follow anymore, thus he implies, we are picking and choosing what we want to obey and what we don’t want to obey.
In response to this, I point out Codrington comment on page 17, “ The accepted hermeneutic is that only those laws specifically reiterated in the NT are still applicable to us today”. Right, that is the accepted hermeneutic, thus the entire wave of writing he goes, on arguing about the other laws surrounding this text, seems a bit puzzling, since he knows how the interpretation is done; but allow me to expand on that rather limited statement briefly.
Firstly, we know that the law is good, and that we cannot keep it no matter how hard we try. However in and of itself the law is good, and the NT in no way makes it void (Romans 7:12). Thus whatever role we assign the law we must remember that it is good, perfect and holy (Matthew 5:17)
Secondly, the NT shows what portions of the laws are no longer binding on believers. When laws are mentioned in the NT as no longer binding, then we conclude that we do not have to keep them. This is not making unbiblical categories, far from it, this is a matter of looking at the whole counsel of God. In Galatians 3:10-13 we see that the ceremonial and dietary laws are no longer binding on Christians for example.
Thirdly, some commandments that are in the law also go beyond the law. In Leviticus 18 and 20 bestiality, incest and adultery are also condemned. These are repeated in the NT, making them not only part of the law, but a larger biblical ethic as well.
2) Codrington suggests that this practice of homosexuality may have had some relationship to cultic practices of the surrounding nation…
Does this apply to adultery, incest and bestiality as well? In Lev 18:27 God says that all the practices mentioned, defiled the land, when they were committed by the people living there. God said that He ‘abhorred’ the people in the land before Israel did, since they practiced such behaviors (Lev 20:23). So we see that these practices offended God no matter whom or in what context they were practiced by or in.
– New Testament –
Next, Codrington comes to 1 Cor 6:9-10 and 1 Tim 1:9-10, and begins discussion on two Greek words, ‘μαλακοὶ’ and ‘ἀρσενοκοιτης’ , he attempts to throw doubt on the translation of these words by suggesting that they can best be understood as referring to pederasty, a practice in which young boys were used to serve adult men and offer them sex, and effeminate call-boys who were used as sex-slaves. He maintains that this cannot be seen as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality. Part of this is seen, he says, in the fact the Paul uses a new word for homosexual when there were other words that meant homosexual already available.
I respond to this by saying, Paul actually coined 179 new words; this does not change the context of the verse these words appeared in.
Lets examine the word ‘ἀρσενοκοιτης’ this is made up of two words in the Greek ἀρσενο’ which means ‘male’ (used in Romans 1) and ‘κοιτης’ which we only see twice in the NT, both times meaning bed (Romans 13:13; Hebrews 13:3). What is interesting is that in the two terms ‘male’ and bed’ there is not mention of any kind of ‘use’ or ‘abusiveness’, Paul puts these two words together to create a picture of a sexual issue, not one of prostitution or anything like that at all. This same construction is used in Leviticus 18:22 where the two words תִשְׁכַּב and זָכָר which is ‘bed’ and ‘man’ are used in Hebrew to speak against homosexuality, thus if one reads the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) one sees the Greek words mention by Paul in place of the Hebrew words forbidding homosexuality. When Paul made his statement against homosexuality he could not have been clearer, making the word out of the words in the Septuagint used to forbid homosexuality.
– Romans –
Yet the real issue becomes clear in the end of Codrington’s article when he mentions Romans 1, since here Paul is so emphatically against homosexuality that one is hard pressed to wiggle out of the text some other meaning. Codrington suggests that one ‘viable’ option in dealing with Romans 1, is to say that God was against homosexuality at the time, but now things have changed. The theological problems with this are implicit and I do not want to lengthen an already long article. Suffice to say that those who which to immediately throw the word cultural at every text that does not fit with our ‘advanced’ society should be alert to see where the rabbit hole eventually leads.
The article ends with a few more short confusing statements about Scripture, ones to which I am sure Dr Condrington knows the answers from a hermeneutically faithful and biblically conservative view. Yet he does not say them in an attitude that suggests their may be an answer. Granted a paper in a journal like ‘Baptist Today’ would be under space constraints, and thus Codrington could not go as deep into the arguments as he would have liked or been able to. However, this does not diminish the fact that there is an agenda pushing his interpretation of these verses
In Conclusion, the Bible and God, who does not change, clearly condemn the practice of homosexuality, yet that same God, who does not change, still offers in the good news of Jesus Christ, an escape from the wrath of God, and freedom from the bondages of all and any sins.
[i]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jud 5