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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 21

[Continuing a discussion of homosexual behavior, based on the Bible.]

Sexual sins in the Bible

The most important sexual sin is stated in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.

As indicated above, Jesus expanded on this in Matthew 5. Most likely, the reason for listing adultery, but not, say, rape, in the Ten Commandments is that adultery violates a covenant between two people. The Bible spells out other sexual acts that are also sinful, including rape, and as noted above, homosexual activity. But these are not, apparently, as serious as adultery.

Here’s a list of sins:

Deuteronomy 27:16 ‘Cursed is he who dishonors his father or his mother.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
17 ‘Cursed is he who removes his neighbor’s landmark.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
18 ‘Cursed is he who leads the blind astray on the road.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
19 ‘Cursed is he who withholds justice from the foreigner, fatherless, and widow.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
20 ‘Cursed is he who lies with his father’s wife, because he dishonors his father’s bed.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
21 ‘Cursed is he who lies with any kind of animal.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
22 ‘Cursed is he who lies with his sister, his father’s daughter or his mother’s daughter.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
23 ‘Cursed is he who lies with his mother-in-law.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
24 ‘Cursed is he who secretly kills his neighbor.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
25 ‘Cursed is he who takes a bribe to kill an innocent person.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
26 ‘Cursed is he who doesn’t uphold the words of this law by doing them.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”

This was not an exhaustive list of sins, but it’s instructive to examine it. None of the sins listed, except the first one, are listed in the Ten Commandments. There are four kinds of sexual sin listed. None of them is homosexuality. (Neither rape or prostitution is mentioned here, either, although both are condemned elsewhere in the Bible.) The Israelites, and, of course, God, were aware of homosexuality, because it is condemned twice in Leviticus. But homosexuality seems to have been considered as less important than adultery, and the four sins mentioned in the list.

The Wikipedia defines fornication in this way: “Fornication typically refers to consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other.” This definition is broader than adultery, although adultery, breaking of the marriage vows by having sexual intercourse with a person who is not one’s spouse, is one type of fornication. The early church indicated that sexual sin, presumably including fornication, was wrong, even for Gentile converts:

Acts 15:29a that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you.

(The King James Version uses “fornication” instead of “sexual immorality” in this verse.) For more statements condemning fornication in the New Testament, see the Blueletter Bible list, here. That web page, based on the King James Version, gives this definition of fornication, as used in the Bible:
1) illicit sexual intercourse
a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12
2) metaph. the worship of idols
a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols

The King James Version, then, uses “fornication” more broadly than the definition given in the Wikipedia, above. Most modern versions don’t use the word, fornication, perhaps because of the different possible meanings.

Homosexual activity, although it is sinful, is not only not the worst sin, but not even the worst sexual sin. The Ten Commandments forbid adultery, not homosexuality, and the letter to the early gentile church, in Acts 15, forbids sexual immorality, not homosexual behavior, although such behavior is one type of sexual immorality.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. God willing, the next excerpt will continue  discussion of this topic.

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