Provost Jonathan Reed, a scholar of religion, early Christianity, and archaeology of ancient Mediterranean and Jewish religion, spoke about what the Bible reveals concerning homosexuality in honor of the month of Gaypril.
Roughly 50 people gathered Wednesday in the Executive Dining Room to learn about sexuality in antiquity and the Bible’s references to homosexuality.
Reed said that out of 23,000 verses in the Old and New Testament, only six address homosexuality and are often disputed.
“One-hundred verses require hospitality to strangers and immigrants;125 advocate love and to love one another regardless of who the person is; 150 verses expect you to forgive people who do wrong to you or to society, and over 2,000 in the New and Old Testament advocate for the poor and demand justice,” Reed said.
Reed contextualized the verses to help the audience understand their relative importance to Christian theology.
“If you are in the Christian tradition, I want to make sure you understand that never does Jesus talk about homosexuality,” Reed said.
Reed also discussed the four views of scripture, which are the different ways people can interpret the Bible. The four views are: mechanical, verbal plenary, inspiration and illumination.
“Mechanical is rare, pretty extreme and often associated with fundamentalism,” Reed said. “People believe the Bible is God’s way of writing to some message to you, and is considered infallible. It is inherent and everything is right. If it is God’s way, then God’s way is right.”
Reed said a verbal plenary view of scripture means each word is inspired by God who then inspires human authors to write interpretations meant for the human audience. Inspiration means people see God as the author of the scripture and the individual human agents as secretaries taking dictation, Reed said.
Lastly, illumination is the interpretation that means people may like what is in the Bible or may not, but either way it will not dictate one’s life, morality or logic.
Reed said some anti-gay Christians assert that since God created Adam and Eve, not “Adam and Steve” – this is proof of God’s disapproval of homosexuality. He also mentioned the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah and Book of Leviticus.
In chapter 18 and 20 of the book of Leviticus, it is condemned for a male to lie next to another male.
“If you read the rest of the book, there are all kinds of other things that get condemned,” Reed said. “Like eating a cheeseburger, mixing synthetic clothing with cotton clothing and touching the skin of a pig are all condemned by death. We do not tend to follow all those other laws, but sometimes we pick this one out to follow.”
Kyle White, gerontology graduate student, said he did not grow up religious, but through his study of religion, he tried to find out if homophobic views were actually supported by religious scripture.
“Can you show me one scripture where God says two men getting jiggy is a sin in his eyes?” White asked. “All the pastors and politicians who have been using this are abusing the word of God, and a half a dozen rabbis I have emailed cannot find a scripture either.”
Reed looked at the Greco-Roman world and through visuals of sculptures explained the idea of sexuality in antiquity.
“You see these depictions in brothels and elsewhere of sexuality with a man who is active and doing it to a woman,” Reed said. “And where a man is doing it to a man. We should not think of this as an egalitarian relationship. This is the superior doing it to the inferior.”
Reed called this script active, the man performing the action versus passive, the woman receiving the action.
“Now if you think of sex for a moment, there are positions where a woman is more active than a man,” Reed said. “So that flips the script to servile versus served. So he is being served and is still the superior even though he is less active.”
Reed said it was very common in the Roman world for rich Roman men to import prepubescent boys from Greece and sell them on the slave market.
“They were desired sexual objects,” Reed said. “It was common and socially acceptable because they were serving the men. This was not an egalitarian relationship where they fall in love with each other.”
Krystal Pulido, sophomore mathematics major, said the lecture reminded her of the way she was raised.
“I grew up pretty religious and went to church often,” Pulido said. “I was learning the scripture and my pastor was very biased in the way he took everything out of context. He would say things like homosexuals will go to hell.
“My mom would always tell me that is not true and then we stopped going to church soon after that.”
Pulido said she agreed with Reed’s point about how the way people interpret the Bible varies.
“Going to different states of histories to see how people were not really focused on sexuality but more power dynamics,” Pulido said. “It is different now.”
Alexis Reyes, junior English major, said she appreciated Reed for acknowledging the different interpretations people can have when reading the Bible.
“I did not know about the Greco-Roman ideas of love,” Reyes said. “It was interesting how Reed reminded everyone this is the Bible way and the context of the power structure and to understand that people interpret the Bible in different ways.”
Reed read 1 Corinthians Chapter 6 and said it does not have to do with the mutual affirming egalitarian relationship between the two men, but rather with the act of prostitution.
“It is really difficult to say what Paul is condemning is egalitarian relationships that are homosexual in nature,” Reed said. “What is being condemned is abuse of power, use of prostitution, using each other for personal gratification. That is how I see the condemnation of homosexuality in the new testament by Paul.”
Layla Abbas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org