Sodom – the sin of homosexuality?

Blessed be God!

The word sodomite creeped into the European languages as a pejorative term for someone who is gay, and sodomy, which was used as a legal term for sexual “crimes against nature”, ie anal and oral sexual intercourse, bestiality, etc. All of this is based on an exegetical reading of Scripture that says that the punishment against the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was the punishment for the crime of homosexuality.

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According to the Bible, these two cities were not far from the Dead Sea, and they were punished severely by God. According to the story, Abraham tried to persuade God to spare these two cities and their inhabitants with the words, “Will you also destroy the innocent with the guilty? Perhaps there are fifty innocents in the city. Will you destroy the place rather than spare it for the fifty innocents who will be there?”

In what follows, God promises to spare Sodom if there are fifty innocent people in it. Abraham kept trying to reduce this number, step by step, eventually reaching number ten. Yet not even ten innocent people could be found in Sodom. When the angels of Yahweh received lodging with Lot and his family, the inhabitants of the city surrounded Lot’s house demanding that Lot hand over the angels to them. In their anger, the townspeople did not even consider Lot’s proposal to hand over his two unmarried daughters to them instead of angels, after which the angels blinded the attackers, and with the help of force, dragged Lot and his family out of the city, commanding them not to look at Sodom.

“Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah…” (Gen. 19,24), destroying both cities and the area around them. Lot’s wife, who, despite the Lord’s command, turned to the cities, turned into a pillar of salt.

Centuries later, this event was used as evidence of the destructiveness of same-sex relationships. But this issue needs to be approached more closely. First of all, it should be pointed out that Christianity does not say that homosexuality is a sin, but that a homosexual act is sinful.

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The question of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah is somewhat obscure in the Book of Genesis itself. The sins of the cities are first mentioned in Gen. 18: 20-21: Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great. Because their sin is so grievous, I will go down to see if their actions fully justify the outcry that has reached Me. If not, I will find out.” Abraham then tries to save Sodom, bargaining with God about how many righteous people can be saved in the city, apparently contemplating the fate of his cousin Lot and his family.

How does God “know” about the sin of Sodom? He sends two angels, who come to Lot. He entertains them in his house, but: “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” The words “know them” is translated in various ways. For example, some English translations of the Bible literally say “to have sex with them” (referring to two guests who are only later identified by Scripture as angels). The basic translation of the Hebrew word “yadah” is “to know.” We all already know when we say in everyday speech that someone is “known in a biblical way.” Yadah is the Hebrew word for sexual intercourse, but also to literally meet someone. Of course, this was not about the people of Sodom wanting to meet two foreigners: their intention was to dominate the foreigners and rape them.

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The narrative then gets an even darker. Lot defends his guests by saying, “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” (Gen. 19: 8). People refuse his (rather immoral) offer, and the angels come to the door, blind the men, and tell Lot and his family to leave town.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the memories of Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned, and it becomes more visible what the Jewish writers considered to be the sins of these two cities. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel speaks of this in particular: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49). Ezekiel says that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality, cruelty and evasion of justice, arrogance and insensitivity to human needs. Despite their wealth, they did not help the needy. Nowhere does Ezekiel mention same-sex sexual relations. The rabbinic tradition speaks of meeting Lot’s guests more as xenophobia and exploiting the weak, although in the end there was the act of rape, which is a terrible sin whether it is the rape of women or men. The Midrash is full of stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, their cruelty, and utter contempt for the poor and needy. The inhabitants themselves lived in great wealth, comfort, and sexual debauchery. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah as a place of adultery and lies and warns the cities of Edom and Babylon that they will end up as Sodom (Jer. 23:14, Jer. 49: 17-18, Jer. 50: 39-40). Equally about Sodom and Gomorrah speaks Isaiah, who also warns Babylon that it will end up like these two cities. Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned again in the New Testament, as a reminder that sins will be punished as Sodom and Gomorrah are punished.

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No one throughout Scripture has identified the event in the Book of Genesis with a same-sex act. Rape (which is clear), adultery (a sin that is also universal), inhospitality, arrogance, cruelty, lack of feelings for others are condemned. Nowhere does the writer of Genesis state that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had same-sex relationships and that God punished them for it. Nowhere does he say that the sin is same-sex love. How did same-sex relationships come into the context of Sodom? This was the conclusion of Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic-Jewish philosopher of the first century AD. Still, for a long time after him, Sodom and Gomorrah were not discussed in this context.

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What does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah tell us? Any sexual intercourse by which we commit adultery is considered bad. In a heterosexual or homosexual sense, it is obviously a sin to force sexual intercourse or rape someone.

Such adultery and rape, as described in the Book of Genesis, are clearly a pillar of sexual immorality and perversion.

The apostle Jude also tells us about this, warning of sexual sins, reminding us of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities that surrendered to them. In short, rape, adultery, and group sexual violence are immoral, perverted, and sinful acts. Same-sex relationships? Nothing is said about them at all.

Furthermore, Sodom and Gomorrah chronically lack hospitality, which is an exceptional crime of the ancient world. A foreigner is still perceived as the “holy of holies” in many countries of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Zephaniah explicitly speak of sin against strangers, although they do not directly mention it. Even Jesus mentions the lack of hospitality as the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt 10: 9-15 and Lk 10: 8-12). And how much could this inhospitality be connected to the doctrine of Christ, from the encounter with the Samaritan woman (stranger), to the commandment “feed the hungry, give the thirsty to drink!”

Sodom was a city that spread the contagion of its perverted culture. Although he was the only one who provided hospitality to strangers, Lot himself was infected with that rot, which is evident in his darkened mind and effort to offer his daughters to get gang raped. His family does not listen to the word of God and many are punished, and in the end Lot, himself has sex with his daughters.

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All of this points to the dangers of a world without God, to a culture of rejection, strife, and excessive hedonism. The toxic culture we can see around us is a danger to our faith and balance in life. The story of Lot tells us that we too sometimes live in Sodom. Although it does not give us a solution, Lot’s destiny is a call to awaken, preserve, and stimulate the Christian faith. Adultery, arrogance, carelessness, debauchery are not the hallmarks of homosexuals, as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah tends to be misinterpreted, but is a challenge to the modern world to be fought with faith and mutual love.

May almighty God bless us and lead us on the path of Truth and Love!

father Macarius

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