Same-sex Unions and Romans 1

© David Peterson (2011)

‘The desire to bless same-sex unions often arises from a serious and sincere pastoral concern for the well-being of members of Christ’s Body.  Yet those who reject the blessing of same-sex unions can be motivated by a pastoral concern which is equally serious and sincere.’[1]

Although the Lambeth Conference in 1998 confirmed the traditional Anglican view that all homosexual practice is ‘incompatible with Scripture’, there continue to be serious debates in the Anglican Communion about this position.  Jeffrey John’s 1993 publication ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’ Christian Same-sex Partnerships was reissued in 2000 and Rowan Williams’ 1989 lecture for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, entitled The Body’s Grace, was republished in 2002, immediately upon his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury.  Since 1998, there has been a furore over the decision of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada to allow the blessing of same-sex unions and the election of a practicising homosexual as Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States.  In England, the proposal that Jeffrey John should be made Bishop of Reading was greeted with such opposition that he asked for his appointment not to proceed.  Many of us would want to express our gratitude to him for that courageous decision.

Similar debates are taking place in other Christian denominations throughout the world, but my concern in this article is specifically to address the Anglican context.  I am grateful to the Most Reverend Drexel Wellington Gomez, Archbishop of the West Indies, for commisioning the writing of the booklet, True Union in the Body?  A contribution to the discussion within the Anglican Communion concerning the public blessing of same-sex unions. The authors deal most helpfully with the biblical, ethical, pastoral and political issues, and do so in a remarkably concise way!  I want to critique more fully the approach of Jeffrey John and Rowan Williams with reference to the interpretation of Romans 1.

1.  A novel approach

a. A desire-based approach to sexuality

Rowan Williams highlights the virtues of celibacy but opposes the notion that homosexual orientation is an automatic pointer to the celibate life.  Without considering the scriptural challenge to abstinence on the part of all who are single, he advocates a desire-based approach to sexuality.  Where there is abandonment to desire from another, there is authentic sexual activity, regardless of orientation.[2] He argues that in the Bible there is ‘a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologically significant it may be.’[3] He further suggests that,

‘the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.’[4]

But the traditional Christian position is not simply based on a few ‘very ambiguous texts’.  There is consistent teaching in the Bible about sexuality and holiness and God’s purpose for human beings in creation.  What is said about homosexuality in Scripture must be read within that theological framework.  Robert Gagnon, in his recent most thorough re-examination of the evidence, has shown that the texts are not as ambiguous as Rowan Williams suggests.[5] The contributors to True Union in the Body? conclude that, ‘Those texts carry the weight they do because they represent the uniform testimony of Scripture and are part of a wider theologically formed understanding of homosexuality.’[6]

Romans 1:18-27 needs detailed attention because of its place in the arguments mounted by Jeffrey John and other advocates of same-sex partnerships.  While there has been legitimate debate about the homosexual activity mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9, advocates of the traditional Catholic and Protestant position have consistently argued that their postion is well-grounded in the argument of Romans 1:18-27.  However, that position has now been challenged by a new approach.

b. A theological model for gay relationships

Jeffrey John argues on two fronts.  His first aim is to convince the mainstream Church that ‘a faithful homosexual relationship is not “incompatible with scripture” (certainly no more so than the remarriage of the divorced, or the leadership of women, which are far more “incompatible” with Bible’s plainest meaning).’[7] He does not intend to jettison the traditional, biblical theology of sex and marriage, but rather to extend it to include gay people.  His second aim is to persuade gay people that ‘contrary to the usual assumptions, the gospel has something positive to say about gay relationships, and that those who live in them belong to the Church as much as anyone else.’[8]

We must certainly affirm that the gospel has something positive to say to gay people.  Christians need to beware of homophobia in all its forms and manifestations.  In positive terms, we must be welcoming of those who struggle with their sexuality.  But what Jeffrey John offers is actually a denial of the grace and power of the gospel for homosexuals.  It is also a distortion of biblical teaching about sexuality and holiness and a misreading of the relationship between Christ and the church.

His fundamental argument is that, in biblical terms, human sexuality is not exclusively or necessarily intended for procreation; ‘it is also intended to express a covenant commitment between two people which is holy because it reflects God’s covenanted love for us, and gives us a framework for learning to love in his image.’[9] A similar position is taken by Rowan Williams in The Body’s Grace.

There is an element of truth in this, but the development of the argument takes us so far away from the Bible’s teaching that it stands in contradiction to what God has revealed.  The element of truth is that human sexuality is not simply intended for procreation.  The one-flesh union of a man and a woman in Genesis 2:18-24 is clearly ordained ‘for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity’.[10] But this union cannot be divorced from the commission to humanity as male and female in Genesis 1:27-28 to ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’.  Genesis 2 cannot be disconnected from Genesis 1!  Of course marriages flourish without procreation.  Throughout Scripture, however, the joy and fulfilment of sexual union continues to be limited to permanent and faithful male and female partnerships.

It is dishonest to read the Bible as justifying sexual activity outside the commitment of heterosexual marriage.  Marriage is a model of the relationship between Christ and the church, most obviously in Ephesians 5:25-33.  However, sexual union is not at the heart of this comparison.  The love of Christ in his self-sacrificing care for the church is the model for husbands and the submission of the church to that loving headship is the model for wives.

Any genuine Christian relationship should express ‘a covenant commitment between two people which is holy because it reflects God’s covenanted love for us, and gives us a framework for learning to love in his image.’  Permanent, faithful and stable relationships ought to be pursued by all Christians, in friendships as well as in marriage.  However, holiness is compromised if relationships involve sexual intimacy outside the commitment of heterosexual marriage.  So we cannot argue that unmarried people lack anything in their relationship with God if they are deprived of sexual intimacy with another human being.  The biblical argument works the other way around.  Those who are married are called to conform every aspect of their union, including the sexual, to the model of Christ and his church.

c. Misusing Scripture

Jeffrey John accuses Evangelicals of misusing Scripture and his challenge needs to be taken seriously.  I believe that the current debate calls for a re-evaluation of the interpretative process used with respect to other matters such as divorce and remarriage and the ordination of women.  However, his easy dismissal of the references to homosexual behaviour in Leviticus is on the basis of a supposed late dating of the passages and highly speculative arguments about ‘the author’s special concern to encourage childbirth’ and ‘to counter syncretism’.[11] He also trivialises the hermeneutical question about the moral force of the levitical rules for Christians and does not consider the sort of issues that I highlight in my articles called Holiness and God’s Creation Purpose and Holiness and Sexuality in the Pauline Writings.

With respect to the Pauline material, he argues that in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 homosexuality is mentioned in passing, ‘within conventional sin-lists, probably taken over from Hellenistic Jewish sources’.[12] This is taken to mean that prostitution and pederasty are the forms of homosexuality which were likely to be uppermost in Paul’s mind, not the kind of faithful and stable relationships being argued by Jeffrey John.  However, the presumption that Paul could not have considered the possibility of permanent same-sex relationships needs to be challenged.

Evidence from the Greco-Roman world

The understanding that homosexual behaviour arises from a disposition – the result of nature or nurture – did not simply arise in the nineteenth century, with the development of modern psychiatry.  ‘Homosexuality’ was a disposition known in the world of the first century AD and there are words in many ancient languages to describe people who engage recurrently in same-sex activity.  However, we should not assume that ‘homosexuality’ or ‘being gay’ on the psychological, emotional, and experiential level is some kind of unified phenomenon, either within our own time and culture or over time and among cultures.

Bruce Thornton’s research points to evidence from Aristotle, Plato and Aristophanes for ‘the ancient Greek belief that homosexuals are born and not made’.[13] David Greenberg argues that, ‘Physiological explanations for homosexual desire or distinct homosexual roles have a long pedigree, dating back to the world of classical antiquity.  Psychological explanations are not exactly new either.’[14]

Bernadette Brooten’s analysis of lesbianism in the ancient world leads her to conclude that Paul may well have known of homosexual orientation.  She opposes the view that Paul condemns only heterosexuals committing homosexual acts and not homosexuals per se, and shows how the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual acts could have made sense to him.  She reveals that ‘some ancient writers saw particular same-sex acts as symptoms of a chronic disease that affected the entirety of one’s identity.’[15] Her study of ancient astrological texts shows that astrologers recognised a variety of preferences, which they linked to the stars.  So she concludes that:

‘Paul could have believed that tribades, kinaidoi, and other sexually unorthodox persons were born that way and yet still condemn them as unnatural and shameful, this all the more so since he is speaking of groups of people rather than of individuals.’[16]

The signifance for the debate of  Romans 1:18-27

Jeffrey John argues that Romans 1:18-27 is the most important text to be considered, because it is ‘the only place where we have anything like a theological argument against homosexual practice.’[17] He rightly observes that Paul is here engaging in an attack on Gentile idolatry.  However, it should also be noted that commentators see a deliberate echo of the Adam narratives in Genesis 2-3, with an implied indictment of the whole of humanity.  Israel is obviously included in this because the language in verse 23 reflects Psalm 106 (LXX 105):20, referring to the idolatry of Israel (cf. Jer. 2:11; Is. 44:9-20).[18] John goes on to observe that, because of this perverse rejection of God, God has abandoned them to dishonourable passions exemplified in the exchange of heterosexual intercourse for homosexual, and to a base mind and improper conduct exemplified in a long list of sins deserving death.  It is the particular way in which John understands ‘the exchange of heterosexual intercourse for homosexual’ that I will now address.

2.  Idolatry, impurity and the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18-27)

The error identified in Romans 1:18-27 is the human pattern of suppressing the truth about God and worshipping a god of our own devising.  God’s wrath is expressed in abandoning humanity to the consequences of this rebellion.  Paul draws attention to the immediate implication of this in terms of the misuse of sex and every form of anti-social and destructive behaviour (vv. 28-32).  In that context, homosexual activity is singled out, but not as an analysis of individual experience or to provide the psychological profile of those who engage in same-sex intercourse.  His concern is societal and general – a portrait of fallen humanity.  Homoeroticism is a symptom of the original rebellion of humanity against God.  It does not affirm God’s creation purpose for male and female as the image of God, but is a sign of the disruption of the order of creation brought about by the fall of humanity, as portrayed in Genesis 3.

a. Idolatry and sexual promiscuity

The apostle’s purpose in Romans 1:18 – 3:20 is to show that, ‘so absolute is sin’s power over people that only God’s power, available in the gospel, can rescue them.’[19] This section of the letter sits between a brief statement of the gospel’s purpose in 1:16-17 and the fuller exposition of its content and achievement in 3:21-31.  The gospel is necessary because ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth’ (1:18).  The truth in question is ‘what can be known about God’ through his self-revelation in the created order (1:19-20).  Even apart from the special revelation found in Scripture, human beings are therefore ‘without excuse’.  ‘For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened’ (1:21).  Sin is a failure to give God the glory that is due to him and to acknowledge that all the good things we enjoy come from his hand.[20]

Sin expresses itself essentially in what is three times described as an ‘exchange’ (using some form of the Greek verb allassō).  People exchange ‘the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles’ (1:23).[21] This is further explained in terms of exchanging the truth about God for (lit.) ‘the lie’ of idolatry and worshipping and serving ‘the creature rather than the Creator’ (1:25).  Distortion of the truth about God then leads to a distortion of the truth about humanity made in the image and likeness of God.  This other exchange, which we shall consider in some detail, is that of ‘natural relations for those that are contrary to nature’ (1:26-7).

It should not be concluded from this argument that Paul is only considering homosexual behaviour which is the direct result of engagement with idolatrous worship.  The more general picture of verse 24 could apply to any kind of sexual impurity and the catalogue of vices in verses 28-31 goes way beyond any cultic setting.  In each of the three paragraphs beginning with the expression ‘God gave them up’ (vv. 24-5, 26-7, 28-32), the apostle is portraying the situation of humanity in rebellion against God.  Individuals will pursue different patterns of disobedience and not all will be directly connected with explicit idolatry.  Homosexual acts and the various behaviours listed at the end of the chapter are particular indications of the general truth outlined in verses 19-23, namely that we are a race in rebellion against our Creator.

b. Sexual promiscuity and the wrath of God

When Paul writes that ‘God gave them up’ (vv. 24, 26, 28), he is expressing in another way the fact that ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth’ (v. 18).  Beginning with Adam, human beings have characteristically turned their backs on a relationship with God in order to pursue their own agenda.  God’s response has been to ‘hand over’ (Gk paredōken) the race to a form of judgement that is appropriate to this rejection.  The present expression of the wrath of God is only an anticipation of the judgement to come (2:3-5, 8-9, 16).[22]

Paul first speaks of people being handed over ‘in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves’ (1:24).  This cannot be taken to mean that God actually impelled people to sin.  The expression ‘in the lusts of their hearts’ describes the condition they were in as a result of turning away from God (1:21-3).  The state into which they are delivered is impurity (Gk. eis akatharsian).  The result or the implication of this is ‘the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves’ (Gk. tou atimazesthai).  Here the apostle speaks quite generally about the abuse of God’s glory leading to the abuse of other people in a sexual way.  ‘Human respect (both self-respect and respect for others) is rooted in the recognition that only God has authority as Creator to order and dispose of that which is created.’[23]

In the next reference, however, the focus narrows to homosexual behaviour.  God gave them up ‘to dishonourable passions’, as then specifically described: ‘For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error’’(1:26-7).

c. The homosexual ‘exchange’

Echoes of Genesis 1 in these verses highlight the distortion of the Creator’s intention for humanity that same-sex intercourse involves.  Instead of the nouns ‘man’ and ‘woman’, adjectives found in Genesis 1:27 LXX, meaning ‘male’ and ‘female’ (Gk. arsenes and theleiai), are used to highlight the sexual differentiation involved in God’s creation of humanity (cf. Mt. 19:4; Mk. 10:6; Gal. 3:28).  In this context, ‘natural relations’ (Gk. tēn physikēn chrēsin, lit. ‘the natural use’) and ‘those that are contrary to nature’ (Gk. tēn para physin, lit. ‘the unnatural [use]’) will refer to sexual behaviour that is ‘in accordance with the intention of the Creator’ and ‘contrary to the intention of the Creator’, respectively.[24]

Reviewing the way extra-biblical Jewish writers in the period considered same-sex intercourse, Robert Gagnon argues that, ‘minimally, Paul is referring to the anatomical and procreative complementarity of male and female.’[25] For Paul it was a simple matter of observation that homosexual intercourse was ‘contrary to nature’, so that pagans who were ignorant of the biblical record had no excuse for not knowing God’s purpose for the sexual organs.

Some modern writers have argued that 1:26-7 refers to what is ‘natural’ for the individuals concerned.  They note that Paul elsewhere uses the word ‘nature’ to describe things the way they are by reason of their intrinsic state or birth (e.g. Rom. 2:14; 11:21, 24; Gal. 2:15; 4:8; Eph. 2:3).  Thus, Michael Vasey proposed that those who are naturally heterosexual are condemned by Paul if they engage in homosexual acts but not those who are naturally homosexual.[26] Jeffrey John argues that ‘against nature’ means ‘against the order of nature itself’ but also ‘that it is against the person’s own nature’.[27] This seems confusing, since the issue of ‘the order of nature itself’ (alluding to the Creator’s plan) seems to over-ride the issue of one’s own nature (expressing human fallenness).

John argues that ‘Paul does not recognize a separate category of homosexual people but only homosexual acts.’  He goes on to conclude that Paul ‘takes it for granted that homosexual behaviour is a free, perverse choice on the part of “naturally” heterosexual men and women.’  However, the text does not necessarily assume that those in question were actually having heterosexual relations and then gave them up for homosexual relations.  Such people are doubtless included in Paul’s perspective but his reference is more comprehensive and general than that.

Furthermore, Paul is not simply describing a pattern of individual choice, but demonstrating that the consequences of humanity’s rebellion and God’s wrath against ‘all ungodliness and unrighteousness’ have a societal and whole-culture impact.  Of course there is individual culpability for each of the sins mentioned in the passage, but the apostle’s main point is to indicate how God’s wrath can be discerned and why our fallenness leaves us all in such a desperate situation.

One particular example of this is God’s abandonment of certain people to the consequences of their perverted choice in the sexual realm.  Literally translated, Romans 1:27 speaks of males who ‘abandoned the natural use of the female and were inflamed in their desire for one another’.  The reference is not to what is natural for such people in terms of their particular sexual orientation but what is ‘the natural use of the female’ for the male in the created order.  By implication, ‘the natural use (of the male)’ by the female is meant in 1:26.  The word chrēsis (‘use’) for sexual intercourse is well established in Greek literature of the time.[28]

Although the apostle is concerned with homosexual acts, regardless of ‘orientation’, it must be remembered that the clause in Romans 1:26 is a description of ‘sinful passions’ (Gk. pathē atimias, lit. ‘dishonourable passions’, ESV).  This phrase parallels ‘the lusts of their hearts’ (v. 24) and indicates that homosexual desires must be included with every other desire that is contrary to God’s will.[29] Paul is concerned with improper and misdirected passions, whatever the cause.  These lead on to the sort of behaviour he condemns.

Only Romans 1 in the New Testament identifies and condemns female homosexual behaviour along with male homosexual behaviour.  This provides strong evidence that ‘Paul was not simply critiquing homosexual acts which were oppressive, pederastic or cultic.  His critique operates at a more fundamental level.’[30] The reference in both cases is quite general and without qualification.  The focus is on behaviour, not orientation.  Having exchanged natural relations for unnatural relations, they are ‘consumed with passion for one another’ and commit ‘shameless acts’ (Gk. tēn aschēmosynēn, lit. ‘the shameless [deed]’).[31] Thus, they receive in themselves ‘the due penalty for their error’.  This last expression probably refers to ‘their sexual perversion itself as the punishment for their abandonment of the true God’,[32] rather than implying some unspecified punishment for their sexual behaviour.

d. Conclusions from Romans 1

1.  The self-degrading and shameful character of both idolatry and same-sex intercourse is stressed in this chapter.  Paul gives other examples of the serious consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God (vv. 28-31), but idolatry and homosexual activity are especially mentioned because they represent that exchange of the truth about God and his purposes for a lie which is at the heart of sin.

2.  Paul does not explain the genesis of homosexuality in the experience of individuals in terms of idolatry leading to same-sex intercourse.  Rather, ‘he is speaking in terms of collective entities, not individuals, and in terms of widespread effect, not origin.’[33] Intertextual echoes of Genesis 1-2 in Romans 1 indicate that ‘both idolatry and same-sex intercourse reject God’s verdict that what was made and arranged was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).’[34]

3.  It is a misuse of the canon of Scripture to say that Romans 1 allows for same-sex unions, when the rest of the Bible is consistently clear about God’s will with respect to sexual intercourse.  Anglicans in particular are bound by Article 20 of the Articles of Religion not to ‘ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written’, nor to ‘so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another’.

4.  It is a disregard of the principle of contextual analysis to suggest that ‘natural use’ in Romans 1:26 could include the sort of behaviour condemned elsewhere in Scripture as being contrary to God’s will.  The passage highlights humanity’s failure to respond appropriately to the revelation of God’s character and will in the created order.  One aspect of our fallenness – namely a homosexual orientation – cannot be used to justify disobedience to God’s will as it is revealed in both the natural order and in Scripture.

3.  The hope of the gospel

Romans 8:18-25 makes it clear that the natural order has been affected by humanity’s rebellion against God and awaits its ultimate transformation, when God’s people experience the redemption of their bodies.  Meanwhile, Romans 3 speaks about justification by faith and redemption through Christ’s atoning work.  Romans 4-8 tells us how to live faithfully and expectantly before God, in the light of Christ’s death and resurrection and in anticipation of the final outworking of God’s purpose in the new creation.  ‘For in this hope we were saved,’ Paul affirms (8:24).  So  Romans 1 must not be read in isolation, but in the light of the hope which the rest of Romans unfolds.


[1] D. W. Gomez (ed.), True Union in the Body?  A contribution to the discussion within the Anglican Communion concerning the public blessing of same-sex unions (Oxford, 2002), p. 3.

[2] A brief summary and critique of this position is provided by G. J. Williams, The Theology of Rowan Williams  An outline, critique and consideration of its consequences, Latimer Studies (London: Latimer Trust, 2002), pp. 30-7.

[3] The Body’s Grace (London: LGCM and The Institute for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, 1989, 2nd edn 2002), p. 11.

[4] The Body’s Grace, p. 12.

[5] R. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001).

[6] Gomez (ed.), True Union in the Body?, p. 29.

[7] J. John, ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’ Christian Same-sex Partnerships (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1993, 2000), p. 3.  He quite legitimately raises the question about the way the Bible has been handled in Anglican debates about the remarriage of divorcees and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

[8] John, ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’, p. 4.

[9] John, ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’, p. 4.

[10] ‘The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony’ in The Book of Common Prayer (1662).

[11] John, ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’, pp. 11-12.

[12] John, ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’, p. 13.

[13] B. S. Thornton, Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality (Oxford: Westview, 1997),  p. xi.  Thornton offers a strong challenge to views that the Greeks regarded homosexual relationships as normal and good, that the Greeks approved the practice of pederasty, and that the Greeks regarded married sex as being for procreation, rather than loving union.  I am grateful to Archbishop Peter Jensen for pointing me to relevant literature on this subject.  Cf.  P. Jensen, ‘Ordination and the Practice of Homosexuality’ in Faithfulness in Fellowship - Reflections on Homosexuality and the Church, Papers from the Doctrine Panel of the Anglican Church of Australia (John Garratt Publishing, 2001), pp. 161-180.

[14] D. F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago/London: University of Chicago, 1988), p. 485.

[15] B. J. Brooten, Love between Women (Chicago/London: University of Chicago, 1996), p. 144.

[16] Brooten, Love between Women, p. 233.  It is sad that she is impelled by the evidence to agree that Paul condemns all same-sex practices, whatever the disposition involved, but hopes that churches today ‘will no longer teach Rom. 1:26f as authoritative’ (p. 302)

[17] John, ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’, p. 14.

[18] Cf. J. D. G. Dunn,  Word Biblical Commentary Volume 38A Romans 1-8 (Dallas: Word, 1988), pp. 53, 61.  Dunn notes the universal appeal of the argument but says that ‘in v21 and overwhelmingly from v23 onward Paul speaks as a Jew and makes use of the standard Hellenistic Jewish polemic against idolatry.’

[19] D. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 92.

[20] Paul uses the same verb (edoxasan), translated ‘honour’ in Rom. 1:21, as he uses in 1 Cor. 6:20, where it is translated ‘glorify’.

[21] English versions rightly translate the aorist tense of the Greek verbs in 1:18-32 with the English past tense (hence ‘exchanged’ in v. 23).  However, it would be wrong to conclude that the reference is simply to some action in the past, such as the fall of humanity recorded in Genesis 3, or even the fall of Israel into idolatry in Exodus 32 (suggested by the use of language echoing Ps. 106:20 LXX).  The aorists in this passage are ‘consummative’, or even ‘gnomic’, describing what is generally true of human experience.  Cf. D. B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pp.  559-562.

[22] C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, ICC, Volume 1 (Edinburgh: Clark, 1975), p. 121, suggests that ‘God allowed them to go their own way in order that they might at last learn from their consequent wretchedness to hate the futility of a life turned away from the truth of God.’  Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pp. 252-3, helpfully outlines five stages in ‘exchanges’ and ‘giving overs’ in Paul’s argument.

[23] Dunn, Romans 1-8, p. 64.

[24] Cf. Cranfield, Epistle to the Romans 1, pp. 125-6.  For this appeal to ‘nature’ in the sense of the order manifest in the created world, Cranfield compares 1 Cor. 11:14.  Dunn, Romans 1-8, p. 64, notes that ‘nature’ is not a Hebrew but a Greek concept, typically Stoic.  However, the idea of living in harmony with God’s created order and his purposes is certainly Jewish.  Cf. Wisdom 13-14; The Testament of Naphtali 3:4-5.

[25] Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 254, in the light of his extensive chapter 2.

[26] Cf. M. Vasey, Strangers and Friends (London: Hodder, 1995), p. 13; R. Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality: Contextual Background for Contemporary Debate (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), pp. 109-118.

[27] John, ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’, p. 15.

[28] Cf. Cranfield, Epistle to the Romans 1, p. 125. Two Jewish writers roughly contemporary with Paul, both Philo (Special Laws 3.39) and Josephus (Against Apion 2.273), use the expression para physin in connexion with homosexual intercourse and God’s purpose in creation.

[29] Cf. Matt. 5:27-30; Col. 3:5-7. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 264, argues that Paul singles out same-sex intercourse because ‘it represents one of the clearest instances of conscious suppression of revelation in nature by gentiles, inasmuch as it involves denying clear and anatomical differences and functions (leaving them “without excuse”).’

[30] Gomez, True Union, p. 26.

[31] Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 239, notes that the LXX use of this noun in Lev. 18:6-19; 20:11, 17-21, is another possible indication that Paul is alluding to the levitical background.  It could thus be understood as ‘indecent exposure and intercourse’.

[32] Cranfield, Epistle to the Romans 1, pp. 126-7.  Moo, Epistle to the Romans, p. 116, suggests that ‘this could be a vivid way of saying that those who engage in such activities will suffer eternal punishment; they will receive “in their own persons” God’s penalty for violation of his will.’  Cf. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pp. 260-3.

[33] Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 286.

[34] Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 291.

 

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