The Interpretation of Scripture

©David Peterson (2009)

1. Dealing with a variety of scriptural interpretations

A. Postmodernism

Postmodernism is flourishing in the Church, particularly in the western world and most obviously at the moment in debates about homosexuality and Scripture.

God does not speak with one voice, according to postmodernists.  Various interpretations of Scripture are equally valid, since God is speaking through different individuals and cultures in different ways to the Church today.

For example, it is argued that although the Bible condemns homosexual practice in some places, in other contexts it can be read as allowing stable and faithful gay relationships (so-called ‘homosexual marriages’).

This is such an important issue that I want to come back to it.  But it is only one example of a larger problem.  How can we agree on what the Bible says about anything?  Is God leading his people to new interpretations and applications?

But this is not really a new problem.  It has existed from the earliest times, because some biblical texts appear to ‘contradict’ others.  How do we ‘reconcile’ such texts?

Sometimes people argue, ‘You can make the Bible say whatever you want and support whatever position you want.’  Sadly, there is some truth in this, but only if you use biblical texts in a way that ignores context and ignores the overall story-line of Scripture (Biblical Theology).

B. The Reformation

At the time of the Reformation in 16th century Europe, the Reformers made much of this important principle: that the church may not ‘so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another’ (Anglican Article 20).  Putting it positively:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. (Westminster Confession 1.9)

In contemporary terms, this would mean that a passage like Romans 1 cannot be taken to speak with a different voice from the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality in other places, as if the Bible contained many theologies and conflicting ethical judgements on this subject.

The Reformers believed very firmly in the inspiration of Scripture.  Every Scripture is ‘God-breathed’ and has a part to play in the revelation of God’s will.  God does not speak in a way that is destined to divide his people. Consequently, the Reformers sought to discover the unity of Scripture on any given topic.

They believed that although God spoke through very many prophets and apostles, using their distinctive personalities and God-given insights into very many situations, God’s revelation of himself and his will in Scripture is consistent and reliable:

a. God’s will is one, not many, and so you cannot say God has changed his mind from the Old Testament to the New Testament;

b. Although there are different perspectives on a given subject in Scripture, these must be related and reconciled, because God does not contradict himself;

c. We have to understand the whole Bible teaching on a given subject and the way it develops, if we want to understand the will of God.

2. Some basic principles of biblical interpretation

Reformers such as Luther and Calvin had to deal with the complex and confusing principles of interpretation that had developed in the Church over many centuries.  These principles were the cause of many doctrinal errors that had crept in.

Many of the principles of biblical interpretation expounded by the Reformers continue to be used today and are familiar.

A. The priority of the original languages[1]

Where translations differ, the Hebrew or Greek text must determine the meaning and be the authority in disputes. Good commentaries will make the Hebrew and Greek meanings clear, even for people who do not know these biblical languages.

B. Words must be interpreted in their context

You cannot simply assume that because Paul uses the word ‘faith’ in a particular way that is exactly how James or Peter uses it.  Do a word study on each writer and then compare the results.

Just because Paul talks about people ‘prophesying’ in 1 Corinthians 14 does not mean that he considered they had the same ministry and authority as Jeremiah and Isaiah.

C. Literary patterns and structures must be observed

For example, parables are generally making only one point and so every detail should not be ‘allegorised’.  So Luke 10:37 makes clear the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  The expert in the law understood the comparisons Jesus was making and identified the Samaritan as the true neighbour (‘the one who had mercy on him’). Jesus then told him, ‘Go and do likewise’, showing the practical consequence of this challenging teaching.

D. Immediate context must be considered first and then the wider context

For example, Jesus warns the disciples in Matthew 10:5-6,

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.  Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

How do we apply this?  The immediate context is the multiplication of Jesus’ ministry to the towns of Israel in the period before his death and resurrection.  We are at a different point in ‘salvation history’.

The wider context of Matthew 28:19-20 makes it clear that Jesus’ ultimate intention is to give Gentiles and Samaritans a chance to hear the gospel and be saved:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

We are part of the post-ascension era.

The even wider biblical context for understanding this priority of ministering to Israel first is a prophecy like Isaiah 49:6 (partly cited in Acts 13:47, in a very significant context, and alluded to in Acts 1:8):

It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.

This example shows us the need to understand the Bible’s message as a whole and to learn to put texts ultimately in the widest possible context.

In particular, we need to know how to understand the New Testament in the light of the Old Testament – to see how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the person and work of the Lord Jesus and to see how a proper understanding of New Testament teaching can be gained by viewing it against its Old Testament background.

3. Fitting the Bible together

A. Jesus and the Old Testament

Many Christians find it difficult to discern the relevance of the Old Testament to their own life-situation.  Even those who have been theologically trained may avoid the Old Testament in their teaching or give poor models of interpretation in the way they handle the text.

Some use the Old Testament merely as a launching pad for expounding biblical themes.  Doctrinal application becomes the controlling agenda and the Bible’s story line is ignored.  Some allegorise incidental features of the text in their desire to be relevant, but miss the central implications of the passage for an understanding of Christ and his work.  Some simply use the Old Testament to tell stories about great men and women of faith.

At the other extreme, there are those who think that the Old Testament has no direct relevance to Christians, who doubt that there is any unity in the Bible or any progressive revelation culminating in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But Jesus himself spent much time explaining to his disciples ‘what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (Lk. 24:27).  Particularly in the period after his resurrection, he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures and proclaimed:

Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Lk. 24:44).

To his opponents he said:

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life (Jn. 5:39-40).

As disciples of Christ, following his lead, we should be constantly looking for ways in which the Old Testament testifies to him.  We should also be looking for ways in which his ministry can be understood in the light of Old Testament teaching (e.g. Matthew 10 in the light of Isaiah 49).

The New Testament shows how the earliest Christians explored the Christian significance of a great range of Old Testament texts (e.g. the sermons in Acts).  We are encouraged by their example to interpret the Old Testament in the light of its fulfilment, in a way that leads people to Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

B. Applying the Old Testament to Christ and his people

The approach of Graeme Goldsworthy is helpful here.[2] He argues that Old Testament passages should first be understand in their literary and historical context and then in the broader context of salvation history.  In other words, we must ask what is going on theologically at this point in the Bible’s story.

The next step is to see how the passage applies to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we have understood that, we can finally ask how this applies to us in Christ.

As a brief example, lets see how it works for Psalm 22:

a. Literary and historical context in the Old Testament – a psalm of David about being persecuted, apparently abandoned by God, but then wonderfully delivered.

b. Theological context in the Old Testament – David is God’s anointed king, being attacked by his own people, yet saved by God to rule over them and bring them blessing

c. Application to Christ – this text is on the lips of Jesus as he dies and is fulfilled in remarkable detail in the events of the cross and resurrection (e.g. Mk. 15:23-39)

d. Application to believers in Christ – even though we may identify with the suffering of David in certain ways, the suffering of Jesus uniquely fulfils the pattern of the psalm and is shown by the wider context of the Gospel narratives to be redemptive (e.g. Mk. 10:45; 14:24). Jesus is ‘the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ for us, who is able to bring us through suffering and death to resurrection, to enjoy God’s eternal kingdom (cf. Heb. 12:1-3). The focus of a Christian exposition of the psalm must be its fulfilment in Christ and only secondarily on how we can endure trial and suffering.

C. The epochs of salvation history

Goldsworthy speaks of different ‘epochs’ in the progress of salvation history.  Characters or institutions in the text need to be examined for their theological function in the epoch to which they belong, before being related to Christ and his work.  Goldsworthy describes those epochs in the following way.

a. The prologue to salvation history (Genesis 1-11), in which we are told of God’s purpose in creation, the rebellion of the man and the woman, God’s judgement on his creation and the subsequent confusion and suffering for all.

b. The epoch from Abraham to David, in which there is a progressive revelation of God’s plan of salvation, which will come about through the establishment of the kingdom of God, initially focussed on Israel (Genesis 12 – 2 Samuel 24).

c. The epoch from Solomon to the end of the OT, in which there is a progressive decline of the kingdom of Israel and divine judgement for disobedience (1 Kings – Malachi).  However, during this period the prophets speak of the coming salvation and kingdom of God as a more glorious re-establishment of what has happened in the past, now to include people from every nation (as promised to Abraham in Genesis 12).

d. The New Testament epoch, in which Jesus Christ is shown to be the fulfiller of those expectations.  ‘He is the solid reality of which the history and prophetic expressions are the foreshadowing.’[3]

‘Typology’ (from the Greek word typos, meaning ‘copy, image, pattern, model, example’) refers to the task of showing links between one epoch and another in the biblical story (cf. Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 10:6).

Goldsworthy expounds a typology based on the principle that ‘people, events and institutions in the Old Testament correspond to, and foreshadow, other people, events or institutions that come later.’[4]

The New Testament gives certain examples of such typology, encouraging us to look more widely for typological links when we are reading the Old Testament.  For example, the Old Testament priests, their sacrifices and their sanctuary are ‘types’ or anticipations of the work of Christ:

They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern (Greek, typos) shown you on the mountain.’ But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. (Heb. 8:5-6)

Indeed, there are correspondences between whole epochs of revelation.  For example, the idea that God saves his people in order to rule over them and to make them a holy people is a common theme in the epoch of Moses and the epoch of Christ, though the way in which God achieves this is different. Compare these texts, noting that the second applies terminology from Exodus to Christians:

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex. 19:5-6)

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet. 2:9)

The idea that we are saved by continuing to trust in God’s promises is common throughout the Bible.  Hebrews 3-4 draws a parallel between Christians and the Israelites in the wilderness with Moses:

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.  For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Heb. 4:1-2)

Sometimes we must emphasise the contrast and difference between our situation and that of the Old Testament people (e.g. with regard to worship or the experience of salvation).

Sometimes we must emphasise the parallels and similarities (e.g. we are pilgrims on a journey of faith to God’s kingdom like the Israelites in the desert, called to live out a holy life).

4. Holiness and sexuality

I want to explore this theme because it is relevant to our current situation, but also because it helps to illustrate general principles about interpreting Scripture. I have dealt with this more thoroughly in Holiness and Sexuality.

A. Homosexuality and Scripture

Western culture has abandoned traditional sexual values, many of which were informed by Scripture.  Even some church leaders challenge us to explain why the Bible’s teaching on sexuality has any relevance to our world today. Texts such as Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 are said to refer to specific practices and are not treated as condemning homosexuality more generally. Passages such as Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 are not considered relevant because Christians are ‘not under law’ (Rom. 6:14).

Three arguments for endorsing homosexual behaviour are often heard:

a. The ‘Love-Tolerance-Unity’ Argument – love, tolerance and unity demand the affirmation of committed, loving same-sex unions, no matter what some Scripture texts say.

b. The ‘Non-Essential Issue’ Argument – one can find a rejection of same-sex intercourse in Scripture, but it is not a core issue or does not include loving homosexual relationships.

c. The ‘New Knowledge’ Argument – we have acquired medical and psychological insights that the biblical authors did not have, which makes their viewpoint out of date.

In addition to such arguments, the issue of justice for homosexuals is also brought into the discussion by many pro-gay church leaders.  But the language of holiness is rarely heard.

This is remarkable since holiness is the theological context and motivation for the teaching of the Mosaic law about sexual behaviour (Lev. 18:1-30; 20:7-26).  Holiness is similarly the basis of Paul’s appeal for distinctive sexual behaviour in several key passages (e.g. 1 Thes. 4:1-8; 1 Cor. 6:9-20; 2 Cor. 6:14 – 7:2).

B. Holiness and sexuality in the law of Moses

Consider these two passages from Leviticus:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. (18:22, NAS)

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (20:13, NIV)

Two different English translations have been chosen here because they best represent the meaning of the original Hebrew text.

What relevance do these regulations have to contemporary debates? Are they endorsed in the New Testament? Is there a consistency of biblical teaching on this subject?

pattern of sanctification was established for Israel under the Mosaic Covenant that foreshadows the work of Christ and the operation of the Holy Spirit for believers under the New Covenant.  Within that pattern, laws about sexual behaviour and interpersonal relationships have a special place. There is a continuity of biblical teaching about holiness and sexuality, despite differences of detail in the way the teaching is presented in both testaments.

C. Theological context in the Old Testament

Holiness was a status conferred upon God’s covenant people by divine promise and divine redemption.  It was also a calling to be lived out in obedience to God’s voice and in keeping the covenant he had made with them (Ex. 19:5-6). A common factor in the terms describing Israel’s vocation is the note of separation from the nations, so as to be uniquely at God’s disposal:

a. As ‘a holy nation’, they were to demonstrate what it meant to live under the direct rule of God, with God’s sanctifying presence in their midst.

b. As ‘a priestly kingdom’, they were to serve the Lord exclusively and thus be a people through whom his character and will might be displayed to the world.  In this way, God’s original promise to bring blessing to all the nations would be enacted (cf. Gen. 12:1-3).

Under the Sinai covenant, pollution and sin were to be avoided in every aspect of life, and there was to be a complete break with every form of idolatry and false religion.  Separation from the nations and consecration to God were two different aspects of their exclusive relationship with the Lord.

D. Literary and theological context in Leviticus

The first sixteen chapters of Leviticus deal with laws of sacrifice, the institution of the priesthood, and various regulations about uncleanness and its treatment.  By preserving Israel’s purity, these cultic provisions would enable her ‘to remain in contact with God and witness to his presence in the world.’[5]

The New Testament points to the fulfilment and replacement of this tabernacle or temple cult in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ in Hebrews.  Under the New Covenant, complete cleansing and sanctification is available for Jews and Gentiles alike through the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (e.g. Heb. 1:3; 9:14; 10:10; 13:12).

Leviticus 17-27 then offers prescriptions for practical holiness, covering every area of Israelite life.  Chapter 17 gives basic principles about food and sacrifice, chapter 18 deals specifically with sexual behaviour, and chapter 19 articulates what it means to be a good neighbour, including the famous injunction to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (v. 18).  The list of crimes in Leviticus 20 includes religious and sexual behaviour, showing again how family and sexual matters were central to the Old Testament view of holiness.

Seven times in Leviticus 18 the Israelites are warned not to behave like the nations who occupied Canaan before them (vv. 3 [twice], 24, 26, 27, 29, 30).  The fundamental reason is simply stated: ‘I am the Lord (your God)’ (vv. 2, 4, 5, 6, 21, 30).[6] God’s people are to be holy because of their relationship with God – because the Lord himself is holy (11:44-5; 19:2; 20:7-8, 24).

a. Negatively, in Leviticus 18 there are commands to turn away from the practices of the nations, including incestuous relationships (vv. 6-18), adultery (v. 20), offering children in sacrifice (v. 21), homosexual behaviour (v. 22), and bestiality (v. 23).

b. Positively, there is the continuing challenge to be different because of who God is (vv. 2-4) and because his rules offer true life (v. 5, cf. 26:3-13), rather than uncleanness, which leads to judgement (vv. 24-30).

Homosexuality is described as ‘an abomination’ (18:22, cf. 20:13; Heb. tô‘ēbâ), meaning something hated or detestable.  The implication is that certain practices are hated by God and should therefore be hated by his people.[7]

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 both use the general term ‘male’ (Heb. zākār, as in Gen. 1:27), thus forbidding every kind of male-male intercourse.

a. Both partners are equally condemned in 20:13;

b. Both texts use the term ‘lie with’, rather than a verb that may suggest rape or any kind of forced relationship: sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation, is the issue here;

c. The phrase ‘as with a woman’ indicates that what is condemned is sexual activity in which a male puts another male in the position of a female.

E. The wider theological context again

Many of the most fundamental principles of Old Testament theology are expressed in the opening chapters of Genesis.  The biblical view of creation is that God created the different plants and animals to reproduce according to their own particular type.  ‘Hence the law forbids any mixed breeding or acts that might encourage it (Lev. 19:19; Dt. 22:5, 9-11).’[8]

Genesis speaks of the creation of mankind in two sexes, in order to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (1:28), but also so that male and female might relate together in total intimacy and become ‘one flesh’ (2:18-24).  Gordon Wenham concludes:

It therefore seems most likely that Israel’s repudiation of homosexual intercourse arises out of its doctrine of creation . . . To allow the legitimacy of homosexual acts would frustrate the divine purpose and deny the perfection of God’s provision of two sexes to support and complement one another[9]

The apostle Paul seems to reflect this same view of creation when he describes homosexual behaviour as ‘contrary to nature’ (Gk. para physin, Rom. 1:26).

Capital crimes listed at the heart of Leviticus 20 include the cursing of parents (v. 9), adultery (v. 10), incest with close relatives (vv. 11, 12, 14), homosexual activity (v. 13) and bestiality (vv. 15-16).

Once again, we must note that the theology of holiness is fundamental to these laws:

a. There is need to exclude from the holy community of Israel those things that deny God’s purpose for his creation and ignore the consequences of disobedience;

b. At the same time, there is need to maintain the witness of the holy community to God’s purpose for human sexuality;

c. The death penalty relates to the particular circumstances of historic Israel, as a community formed to manifest his holiness in all its dimensions to a fallen world.

F. Holiness and sexuality in the teaching of Paul

The demand for holiness which is central to the Mosaic Law remains at the heart of Christian exhortation in the New Testament (e.g. Col. 3:12-17; 1 Thes. 4:1-8; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:13-16).

The apostolic writings reinterpret and apply a number of fundamental prohibitions and exhortations found in the Mosaic Law, to tease out for us what it means to be God’s holy people under the New Covenant.

The essential theological point is that Christians are to be distinct from the world in values and behaviour, because they belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. Holiness is a gospel issue because Christ’s redemptive work makes a new form of sanctification possible (e.g. 1 Cor.1:2, 30).  Holiness of life is a sign of true conversion and allegiance to Christ, so that failure to pursue holiness indicates a life out of touch with the Lord and his will.

a. Abstaining from sexual immorality (1 Thes. 4:2-8)

You know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

The will of God for Christians, conveyed by the apostle ‘by the authority of the Lord Jesus’, is for a sanctified or holy life.

Sanctification here means specifically avoiding all forms of ‘sexual immorality’ (porneia is a general term covering everything outside sexual faithfulness in heterosexual marriage).

The positive alternative is to learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.

The danger if we do not do this is being punished by the Lord ‘for all such sins’, but the power to be different is the gift of his Holy Spirit.

b. The power to change (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

The lifestyle of the ungodly, which will keep them from inheriting the kingdom of God, is described with a number of terms: idoaltry, theft, greed, drunkenness and other things as well as sexual sins.

Two words are used to describe homosexual behaviour, the first (malakoi) meaning ‘soft, effeminate’ and the second being a direct echo of Leviticus (arsenokoitai), meaning ‘men who sleep with men’.  Together, these words seems to describe passive and active homosexual behaviour.

Paul says the Corinthians are different now, because ‘you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’

What he means is: ‘Your own conversion, effected by God through the work of Christ and the Spirit, is what has removed you from being amongst the wicked, who will not inherit the kingdom . . . Therefore, live out this new life in Christ and stop being like the wicked.[10]

Those who are bowed down by the pressure of temptation or are aware of failure need to be reminded of the sanctifying work of God in Christ, by which he has established us as his holy people.

On this basis, we should press on in hope and grasp again by faith the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice.  As in 1 Thessalonians 4, the challenge to holiness in this passage is accompanied by a reference to the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to enable his people to pursue holiness.

G. Overall conclusions about holiness and sexuality

In Old and New Testament, holiness is a status conferred by God on those he has redeemed and drawn to himself.  It is also a calling to be lived out in obedience to his word, in separation from the world and its values. Definitive sanctification under the New Covenant is the gift of God to those who trust in Christ.

The demands of holiness are established for Israel in the Mosaic law, where issues of sexual behaviour and interpersonal relationships are central.  But the prescriptions of the law with regard to sexuality reflect the fundamental principles of Genesis about God’s purposes in creation for humanity.

The demands of holiness under the New Covenant are established by Jesus and his apostles (cf. What did Jesus say about Homosexuality?).  They affirm again the foundational intentions of God for marriage and sexuality, as reflected in the creation narratives and the provisions of the Mosaic law.

The teaching of Leviticus 18:22 is expressed differently in Roman 1:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The warning of Leviticus 20:18 is modified in terms of New Testament eschatology: the immediate penalty for serious cases of sexual misbehaviour amongst professing Christians is excommunication or exclusion from the fellowship of believers until repentance has been expressed (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-5); the ultimate penalty for persistent sexual misbehaviour is exclusion from the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

[1] These points to some extent reflect the argument of D. A. Carson, ‘Approaching the Bible’, in D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, G. J. Wenham (ed.), New Bible Commentary 21st century edition (Leicester: IVP, 1994), 12-19.

[2] Cf. G. Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom.  A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament (Exeter: Paternoster, 1981); Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture.  The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2000).

[3] Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible, 109.

[4] Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible, 109.

[5] Cf. G. J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 5.

[6] This phrase recalls the revelation of the name of God to Israel, associated with the promise of redemption from Egypt and settlement in the promised land (Ex. 3:13-17; 6:2-9; Lev. 19:34, 36; 23:43; 25:38, 55; 26:13, 45; cf. Nu. 15:41).

[7] In 18:26, 27, 29, 30, the term is employed to describe everything prohibited in the chapter.  In biblical usage, it does not simply speak of idolatry, as some have argued, nor does it limit the prohibition against homosexuality to cult prostitution.

[8] G. J. Wenham, ‘The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality’, Expository Times 102 (1991), 363.

[9] Wenham, ‘Homosexuality’, 363.  Leviticus refers to incest as literally sex with your ‘own flesh’ (18:16-17; 20:19).  Homosexuality is similarly rejected because it involves intercourse between beings that are too much alike.  By contrast, bestiality is condemned because it is sex between beings that are too much unlike.

[10] G. D. Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 245.


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