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original cover art for Studies on Homosexuality and the Church

 

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Study Three: From the New Testament - An Early Church Decision

Those who claim that the Bible mandates the prohibition of gay and lesbian behaviour, sometimes cite Acts 15:28–29 as additional evidence. In that place Luke writes, "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication" (Acts 15:28–29).

These verses seem much too ambiguous, however, to allow us to make any sweeping assertions regarding queer behaviour. The term πορνεια (porneia) is too general to be helpful in this discussion. While it has been translated as "fornication" in the NRSV, "unchastity" in the RSV, and "sexual immorality" in the NIV, it might also mean prostitution. The precise question before us is whether or not homosexuality, as we understand the phenomenon today, is to be regarded as morally reprehensible.

To be consistent, those who cite this passage as scriptural mandate against homosexuality, should be equally concerned about prohibiting the consumption of such products as blood sausage and the modern equivalent of "meat sacrificed to idols." With regard to the latter, the Acts passage would need to be interpreted in light of Paul's very different advice regarding the subject. As we know, Paul had no qualms about the eating of food sacrificed to idols, as long as such eating did not offend the consciences of weaker Christians (1 Corinthians 8).

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