The Lion and His Table

The Lion and His Table
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ideals and Abstractions, Particulars and the Concrete: Understanding Sexuality and Marriage vis-à-vis Greek Philosophy and in Romans 1.26-28


The idea that marriage can be defined in terms of a ‘loving, committed relationship’ instead of as the union of a male and a female is part of a larger, philosophical disagreement.  This essay makes this point with respect to the different philosophical approaches of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics.  The agreement of Jewish and Christian philosophy is closest to the Stoics: a theology of creation compares favourably to the Stoic notion of living according to nature (natural law, not one’s personal inclinations).  The attempt by some to redefine marriage so that it can include homosexual relationships is consistent with philosophical alternatives in Paul's day—which Paul did not accept.  It is a shift away from the doctrine of creation and from concrete theologizing in general that is fundamental to Christian theology.

Plato’s Universals and Particulars

For Plato, particulars represented—in whatever inadequate form—the ideal or universal.  So, for example, we might say that some particular thing or person is beautiful because it represents or partakes of the ideal, Beauty in itself.  In the Republic, Plato sought to define ‘Justice’ and then apply the ideal to the particular by describing a particular republic that would express this virtue.  He also understood the various ideals to be expressions of one, particular ideal: the Good.  Furthermore, humans desire to know the universals; their souls desire to rise up on wings to perceive these absolute universals in themselves.  Yet the involvement in the material world of particulars pulls them down, and they fail to do this until, in death, their souls are finally released.  In his famous cave allegory (Republic Bk. 7), Plato compared life in the realm of particulars to chained persons in a cave looking at shadows from the world outside on their cave wall: distorted figures, colourless, difficult to define, and so on.  This is the life we are said to live in this world, and we continuously struggle to grasp the ideals themselves in our chained existence of the material world.

Universals found in the Particulars: Aristotle’s Alteration to Plato

Plato’s argument about universals and particulars is an important philosophical underpinning for Western culture as a whole.  We have never shed this perspective in Western culture, even if alternatives present themselves.  One alternative came quickly in the philosophy of Plato’s pupil, Aristotle.  Aristotle accepts that one may speak of ideals and their particular expressions, but he distinguishes himself from Plato in saying that we essentially need to be more practical in our enquiry on these matters.  We end up disputing what is ‘Beauty’ or ‘Happiness’, for example (cf. Nichomachean Ethics 1.4), and so we should discuss the particular ends of certain things.  This leads Aristotle to talk of three different kinds of life, dependent on which end one pursues: the life of pleasure, the life of politics (meaning a good arrangement for community, not ‘politics’ as we typically use the word today), or the life of contemplation (Nichomachean Ethics 1.5).  (Note that these options relate to the three cardinal virtues of temperance (which holds back vices that arise in the pursuit of pleasure), courage (discussed in terms of honour in politics), and wisdom.) The pursuit of ideals within particulars rather than abstracted from them is an important philosophical shift from Plato.  So, for example, one finds that particular things have particular forms of beauty.  One cannot abstract ‘Beauty’ from a beautiful girl and a beautiful sunset—they are beautiful in relation to the different objects themselves.

Plato vs. Aristotle on Sexuality

Practically, this philosophical distinction could lead to different approaches to sexuality.  In Phaedrus (251a), Plato distinguishes the love of young men by older men (pederasty) along these lines: it is good if the older man sees the young man’s beauty and pursues the relationship as a pursuit of the ideal, Beauty; it is bad if the older man merely pursues sexual pleasure and gratification.

When proponents of same-sex unions or marriage today argue on the grounds that intimate unions are good if pursued in ‘loving and committed’ relationships, they are arguing along the lines of Plato.  They are distinguishing the particular good of marriage or of sex from the ideals of Love and Commitment.  This abstraction of ideals from particulars is precisely what Aristotle questioned in his tutor’s philosophy. 

If we were to follow a more Aristotelian approach, we would need to look more carefully at the intended ‘ends’ (goals) of particular things (sex, marriage).  Aristotle’s tendency to examine particulars in terms of their ends rather than by trying to define an ideal in itself could lead to an understanding of different genders than simply the male and female.  He says, e.g.,

Physiognomonica 6: Shrill, soft, broken tones mark the speech of the pathic, for such a voice is found in women and is congruous with the pathic’s [the passive partner in a homosexual relationship] nature.[1]

However, Aristotle also could understand homosexuality in terms of habits, not just a person’s natural tendencies (Aristotle, Nichomachian Ethics 7.5), and his ethics did not simply affirm a person’s inclinations without also defining what is Just (i.e., the right balance of the virtues in a person and society) and Noble.  Nevertheless, finding ideals related to particulars inclines one to a possible different assessment of sexuality and marriage.

Natural and Unnatural

The Stoics, in particular, spoke of living in accordance with nature (kata physin), not against nature (para physin).  They were not alone in this conviction: a dictum of Aristotle in Politics is, ‘Nothing contrary to nature [para physin] is noble’ (7.1325b.10).  By this, he did not mean, as one might be inclined to believe from the above discussion, a person’s own nature but nature in a wider sense—what is true of the natural world.  Yet Stoics built their philosophy more closely on living according to nature.  If Plato’s philosophy could allow some element of a person constructing alternative relationships to heterosexual marriage when the goal was the pursuit of universals (such as Beauty in homosexual or heterosexual relationships), Stoic philosophy opposed whatever was contrary to nature.

Epictetus, a Stoic, says, ‘… convince me of this that you acted naturally, and I will convince you that everything which takes place according to nature takes place rightly’ (Discourses 1.11).[2]  In this, he was following a fundamental dogma of Stoicism.  Applied to homosexuality, he could therefore condemn the act and lifestyle of both the active and the passive man:

What is lost by the victim of unnatural lust? His manhood. And by the agent? Beside a good many other things he also loses his manhood no less than the other (Discourses 2.10).

For Jews and Christians, with their doctrine of creation rather than pursuit of abstract ideals, Stoic philosophy came closer than other philosophies of the day.  Both recognised the created order as a basis for determining what is right and wrong, just and unjust, good and bad, etc.  Indeed, Paul does not condemn only the passive partner in a homosexual relationship but both active and passive partners because both are acting against nature—as Epictetus says, each ‘loses his manhood’.  This is not the way God created the world, and homosexuality is ‘against nature’—the same phrase used by both Aristotle and Epictetus (Romans 1.26).


A definitive feature of liberal theology is its abstraction from particulars.  The more one abstracts concepts in theology, the more theologians can reapply ideals in a variety of ways.  Abstracted ideals of Justice, Freedom, and Love allow theologians to shape them any which way they choose, and that without being bound to the meaning of sacred texts.  The move away from the concrete and particular is fundamental to liberalism.  The cross, for example, comes to stand for certain ideals rather than being an actual substitutionary sacrifice.  The resurrection, one regularly hears, did not really take place, but the notion of renewed life can be preached to help people negotiate the facts of their life struggles (an existential interpretation).  And so, too, marriage, now defined not specifically as the union of a male and a female but as something more abstract and expressing ideals of Love and Commitment, is being touted as Christian.  It is not.

Christianity is in essence concrete, as concrete as the belief in the incarnation.  Jesus was God made man.  Meaning is bound by authoritative Scripture, not vague principles derived from the text and then applied in some new way—even against what the Biblical text specifically says.  And just so, a truly Christian view of sex is Biblically grounded and is concretely defined as appropriate only within the marital relationship of a male and a female using their body parts in the way they were intended by the God of creation.  Note the language of ‘natural use’ (physikēn chrēsin) in what Paul says in Romans 1.26-27—not ‘natural intercourse’ (NRSV) or ‘natural relations’ (ESV, NIV)—over against what is para physin (against nature) in Romans 1.26 in description of lesbianism and male homosexuality:

Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse [physikēn chrēsin] for unnatural [para physin]....

The construction of ethics around ideals rather than the concreteness of nature, the historical realities of redemptive history, and, for that matter, God’s revealed Word, is a non-Christian philosophizing.  Docetists (denying Jesus’ incarnation) and Gnostics both attempted to take Christianity in this direction in the early years of the Church, just as much as liberals try to do so in our day.  But all such efforts are fatally flawed as fundamentally unchristian.  Next time you say the Apostle’s Creed, think about how concrete the confession of the Christian faith is; it is not a list of abstract values and Platonic ideals.  Just so, Christians affirm a very specific definition of marriage between a man and a woman, not some set of ideals in relationships that can be applied to several different kinds of unions.

[1] The Works of Aristotle, trans. T. Loveday and E. S. Forster, ed. W. D. Ross, Vol. VI (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913).
[2] Arrian’s Discourses of Epictetus in Four Books, trans. W. A. Oldfather (Loeb Classical Library 131; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925).

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Loving, Committed, Same-Sex Unions and Marriages in Antiquity: What Early Christians Knew When Calling Homosexuality Sin


The argument that Paul and other early Christians would not have known about loving, committed, long-term homosexual relationships, unions, or even marriages is false.  A myth has developed in contemporary ‘scholarship’ about what antiquity understood on these matters, perpetuated by scholars who refuse to do the heavy lifting work of actual research in the primary sources rather than just quote one another.  It is as though the argument has been hermetically sealed by those pushing the revisionist agenda of same-sex unions: actual research would be highly inconvenient were it to reveal the myth.

The mistaken scholarship seems to have begun in the 1980s with Robin Scroggs, who argued that

… pederasty was the only model [for homosexuality] in existence in the world of [Paul’s] time.” And “at the risk of seeming endlessly repetitive, I close with the observation that Paul thinks of pederasty, and perhaps the more degraded forms of it, when he is attacking homosexuality.[1]

This led to the argument in the 1980s that Paul was not speaking about loving, mutual, committed, adult unions or marriages.  Within a decade, Scroggs’ claim about what ancient society knew of homosexuality—that pederasty was the only model—was overturned, but the argument that Paul could not have had loving, committed unions in view has persisted.  It was recently a major reason cited by Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales for his approval of same-sex unions.[2]  Various alternatives to Scroggs’ focus on pederasty emerged, such as that Paul was speaking of prostitution or temple prostitution or sexual lust (loose sexual practices or passions out of control), or something else.  One related assertion—that antiquity did not know about or understand sexual orientation[3] (which I have addressed elsewhere)—should be noted.[4]  Not only do such alternative interpretations of Paul fail to make sense of what he says, they also fail to investigate ancient literary sources adequately—or even to engage them at all.  The failure to interpret Paul in his literary context has led to interpretations that favour this or that contemporary conclusion a scholar wishes to purport, but they are typically lacking in scholarly research.

One line of enquiry not adequately researched in the literature is the one studied here: the presence of long-term, adult homosexual relationships in antiquity, even same-sex unions and marriages.  The quotations offered here are from literature that happened to capture some story gaining the attention of one writer or another in antiquity: we have no knowledge of how many such examples existed.  They are sufficient, however, to take the wind out of any argument that early Christians were not in a position to contemplate loving, long-term, committed same-sex unions in their cultural context or that they would not have been aware of same-sex marriages.  Quite the opposite.  What we find is that awareness of such relationships was likely at the same level of what the West is now considering—without the fanfare of a media to keep it in our faces on a daily basis.

What the Evidence Means

Before presenting the evidence, a few brief points about what the evidence means for today’s revisionist interpreters of the Church’s long-standing teaching on homosexuality might be noted.  First, the data demonstrates that antiquity knew of other ‘models’ (to use Scroggs’ term) of homosexuality in antiquity than pederasty for adult homosexual relationships.  This is so whether the long-term, adult homosexual union was loving or not.  Second, the data demonstrate that there were loving homosexual unions in antiquity.  Third, the data demonstrates that antiquity could speak of and knew of some homosexual marriages, whether loving or unloving.  Thus, the data shows that early Christian (and Jewish, for that matter) opposition to homosexuality in Gentile contexts would have been aware of same-sex unions and marriages.  They condemned the relationships all the same.  The argument against homosexual acts was against such acts whether as acts or in same-sex unions or marriages.

Failed Scholarship

All this means that the perpetuated myth that Paul could not have intended to decry homosexual marriage is a matter of failed scholarship.  (Other failures are not the subject of discussion here, such as adequate ministry training, commitment of clergy to orthodoxy, or incompetent denominational leadership.)  The truth is that Paul handled the question differently: in terms of natural unions as God intended for a male and female in marriage versus unnatural unions of any sort.  He did not base the legitimacy of marriage on love—Jesus’ insistence on no divorce pressed the early Church to consider marriage covenantally, not romantically—even if the marriage were to an unbeliever.  (To be sure, love was a goal in marriage (e.g., Eph. 5.20-31), but it was not the basis for marriage or divorce when things got rough.)  But that Paul could not have known of loving, committed, unnatural unions is a contention against concrete evidence.  (Readers should note that additional texts on love between homosexuals is also relevant but not discussed here as the focus is on adult homosexual unions.)

At least Robin Scroggs attempted to do primary source research—those were early days for revisionist interpreters, and we might perhaps forgive some failure on his part to collect adequate evidence at that time, but not today.[5]  Scroggs’ inclination as a New Testament scholar was to study primary sources, and he is to be commended in this even if his research was fatally inadequate.  Many scholars who have followed since, however, particularly theologians and ethicists as opposed to Biblical scholars, appear to lack the basic training in primary source research to earn the right to be heard on a matter of interpreting Scripture in its context (a prime example would be Jack Rogers’ Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality).[6]

However, even Biblical scholars at times have relinquished their training in primary source research to be sure that they are on the politically correct side of the argument (a prime example would be Victor Paul Furnish—a capable Biblical scholar who does no serious research on the subject but who has written on it as a supporter of the revisionist view).[7]  The result is that too many denominations in the West have been dealing with arguments about homosexuality based on inadequate and inept scholarship.  One of the key arguments for revisionists—that antiquity did not know loving, committed, homosexual relationships—is an example of failed scholarship.  Anyone making this argument should be required to state what actual primary source research he or she has done and then should be asked to engage the evidence presented here.

Long-term, Sometimes Loving, Adult Homosexual Unions or Marriages in Antiquity

Aristotle, Politics 2.96-97 [1274a].  Philolaus “was the friend and lover of Diocles, an Olympic victor who left Corinth in disgust at his mother Halcyone’s incestuous passion for himself, and he accompanied Diocles to Thebes, where they lived and died together.  Their tombs are still shown today: they stand in full view of one another, but one of them can be seen from the soil of Corinth, and the other cannot….”[8]

Xenophon (c. 430-354 BC), The Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 2.12
I think I ought to say something about intimacy with boys, since this matter also has a bearing on education. In other Greek states, for instance among the Boeotians, man and boy live together, like married people; elsewhere, among the Eleians, for example, consent is won by means of favours. Some, on the other hand, entirely forbid suitors to talk with boys.[9]

Cicero, Philippics 2.44-45: You [Antonius—Mark Antony] assumed the manly gown, which you soon made a womanly one: at first a public prostitute, with a regular price for your wickedness, and that not a low one. But very soon Curio stepped in, who carried you off from your public trade, and, as if he had bestowed a matron’s robe upon you, settled you in a steady and durable wedlock.[10]

Suetonius, Nero 28: Having tried to turn the boy Sporus into a girl through castration, he [Emperor Nero] went through a wedding ceremony with him—dowry, bridal veil and all—which the whole Court attended; then brought him home and treated him as a wife.  He dresses Sporus in the fine clothes normally worn by an Empress and took him in his own litter not only to every Greek assize and fair, but actually through the streets of Images at Rome, kissing him amorously now and then….  29. Nero practiced every kind of obscenity, and after defiling almost every part of his body finally invented a novel game: he was released from a cage dressed in the skins of wild animals, and attacked the private parts of men and women who stood bound to stakes. After working up sufficient excitement by this means, he was dispatched - shall we say? - by his freedman Doryphorus. Doryphorus now married him - just as he himself had married Sporus - and on the wedding night he imitated the screams and moans of a girl being deflowered. According to my informants he was convinced that nobody could remain chaste or pure in any part of his body, but that most people concealed their secret vices; hence, if anyone confessed to obscene practices, Nero forgave him all his other crimes.[11]

Martial, Epigrams 1.24: Decianus, you see that fellow there with the rough hair, whose beetling brow frightens even you, who talks of Curii and Camilli, freedom’s champions? Don’t believe his looks. He took a husband yesterday.[12]

Martial Epigrams 12.42: Bearded Callistratus married rugged Afer in the usual form in which a virgin marries a husband.  The torches shone in front, the wedding veil covered his face, and Thalassus, you did not lack your words.  Even the dowry was declared.  Are you still not satisfied, Rome?  Are you waiting for him to give birth?

Martial, Epigrams 12.95 [Warning against same-sex acts with boys leading to same-sex marriage]: Read, Istantius Rufus, the ultra-pathic little books of Mussetius, which vie with the little books of Sybaris [i.e., ‘how to’ books for same-sex intercourse], pages tinged with prurient wit [pederasty]. But have your girl with you, lest you make lustful hands sing your wedding song and become a husband without a woman.

Juvenal, Satire II, lines 117-140: Gracchus gave a dowry of four hundred thousand sesterces to a trumpeter—or maybe he performed on a horn that was straight. The marriage contract has been witnessed, felicitations offered, a huge company invited to the feast, and the new bride reclines in her husband’s lap. O nobles! Is it a censor or a soothsayer that we need? Would you be more horrified, would you think it more monstrous still, if a woman gave birth to a calf or a cow to a lamb? He’s wearing the bride’s flounces, long dress, and veil—the man who carried the sacred objects swaying from the mystic thong and who sweated under the weight of the sacred shields. O father of Rome, where has it come from, this appalling outrage that afflicts the shepherds of Latium? Where has it come from, this itch that taints your descendants, Gradivus? Look: a man illustrious in family and fortune is handed over in marriage to another man—and you’re not shaking your helmet, or striking the ground with your spear, or complaining to your father? Off with you, then—withdraw from the acres of the stern Campus which you don’t care about. “Tomorrow at sunrise I have a ceremony to attend in the valley of Quirinus.”  “What’s the occasion?” “Oh, just a friend of mine marrying a man, and he’s invited a few guests.” If we are allowed to live just a little longer, those marriages will take place, they’ll take place openly, they’ll even want to be reported in the news. Meanwhile, the fact that they can’t give birth and use their babies to hang on to their husbands is a huge torment which these brides cannot escape. But it’s better that nature grants their minds no power over their bodies: they die infertile, and swollen Lyde with her secret medicine box is no use to them, no more than holding out their palms to running Lupercus.  Yet even this outrage is surpassed by Gracchus, wearing a tunic and with a trident in his hand, who as a gladiator traversed the arena as he ran away, a man of nobler birth than the Capitolini and Marcelli, than the descendants of Catulus and Paulus, than the Fabii, than all the spectators in the front row, even if you include the very man who staged that net-throwing show..[13]
Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, III.14.171-172: But if likewise Mars [planet/god of war] or Venus [planet/god of love] as well, either one of them or both, is made masculine, the males become addicted to natural [kata physin] sexual intercourse, and are adulterous, insatiate, and ready on every occasion for base and lawless acts of sexual passion, while the females are lustful for unnatural congresses [para physin], cast inviting glances of the eye, and are what we call tribades; for they deal with females and perform the functions of males [andrōn erga]. If Venus alone is constituted in a masculine manner, they do these things secretly and not openly. But if Mars likewise is so constituted, without reserve, so that sometimes they even designate the women with whom they are on such terms as their lawful “wives.”[14]
Lucian, Vera Historia 1.22 [This fictional story describes a voyage to the moon where men marry men]: In the interval, while I was living on the moon, I observed some strange and wonderful things that I wish to speak of. In the first place there is the fact that they are not born of women but of men: they marry men and do not even know the word woman at all! Up to the age of twenty-five each is a wife, and thereafter a husband. They carry their children in the calf of the leg instead of the belly.[15]
Lucian, Dialogues of the Courtesans, 5.1-4: [In this passage, Megilla, a lesbian, lives as a male (short hair, with a wig in public to appear as a woman) and has Demonassa as her wife.]

Iamblichos, Babyloniaka (lost work, 2nd c. AD): [This novel depicted Berenike and Mesopotamia as a married, female couple.  We lack the original source.  As told by Photios (Bibliothēkē 94.77a-b), the text says that Berenike ‘came with’ (sunegineto) and ‘made marriage of’ someone named ‘Mesopotamia’.  One might question whether the evidence supports the interpretation that this was a lesbian marriage or merely that the two sponsored wedding festivities.]

Aelius Lampridius, Elagabalus 10.5: With this man [Zoticus,] Elagabalus [Elagabalus Antoninus, or Varus, a Roman emperor, early 3rd c.] went through a nuptial ceremony and consummated a marriage, even having a bridal-matron and exclaiming, "Go to work, Cook" — and this at a time when Zoticus was ill. 6 After that he would ask philosophers and even men of the greatest dignity whether they, in their youth, had ever experienced what he was experiencing, — all without the slightest shame. 7 For indeed he never refrained from filthy conversation and would make indecent signs with his fingers and would show no regard for decency even in public gatherings or in the hearing of the people.[16]

[Emperor Elagabalus insisted that courtiers also marry other men if they wanted advancement (Lamparidius 10-11).]

Plutarch, Moralia: Erotikos (Dialogue on Love) 761d: [Two men, Epaminondas and Caphisodoros were lovers and buried together as a married couple]: Epaminondas, in fact, loved two young men, Asopichus and Caphisodorus. The latter died with him at Mantineia and is buried close to him….[17]

Judaism and Early Christianity

We might add a few additional texts from Judaism and early Christianity to note the presence of loving, committed, homosexual unions and marriages in antiquity.

Sifra Ahare 9:8 [before AD 220; Commenting on Leviticus 18.3—the chapter that mentions male homosexuality—Lev. 18.22: The commentary understands Leviticus to speak of men marrying men and women marrying women.].

Genesis Rabbah 26.6 and Leviticus Rabbah 23.9: [both texts refer to marriage between males].

bHullin 92b [5th/6th c. AD]: [This text prohibit drawing up marriage contracts between males].

Theodotian Code 9.7.3 (16 December, 432): [Now in the Christian era of the Roman Empire, a law is passed forbidding a man marrying another man as though he were a woman]: When a man “marries” in the manner of a woman, a “woman” about to renounce men, what does he wish, when sex has lost its significance; when the crime is not profitable to know; when Venus is changed into another form; when love is sought and not found?  We order the statutes to arise, the laws to be armed with an avenging sword, that those infamous persons who are now, or who hereafter may be, guilty may be subjected to exquisite punishment.’[18]

[Theodotian Code 9.7.6 calls for burning to death men practicing homosexual sex.  6 August, 399.]


The evidence speaks for itself: antiquity at the time of Paul—well before and afterwards—knew examples of same-sex unions of adults that were committed and long-term and sometimes loving.  Claims by scholars doing inadequate research that antiquity knew no such thing are just that—claims without consideration of the evidence.  Thus, when Jews and Christians spoke against homosexuality in antiquity, it cannot be argued that they did so without awareness of loving, committed, same-sex unions or marriages.

For early Christians, the issue of homosexuality was not decided on the basis of whether relationships were loving, even if marriage ideally expressed love.  They were not legitimated on the basis of commitment, even if marriage meant commitment.  The understanding of sexuality and marriage was based on what Scripture said: marriage is the ‘one flesh’ union of a man and a woman.  Were someone to argue in the 1st century at a Christian church that homosexuality should be permitted if in a loving, committed marital union, the response would have first been that this was contrary to Scripture.  The debate over homosexuality in our day is not just about sexuality and marriage: it is ultimately about the authority of Scripture in the Church’s theology and practice and its use in pastoral teaching.

One can, of course, argue from the notion of ‘loving, committed unions’ for other things than homosexual marriage.  Certainly incestuous marriage could be affirmed on this basis.  One might make a case for open marriages—sex among friends—on this basis as well (unless some concern for marriage per se is added).  Be that as it may, the argument in favour of homosexual unions or marriages based on this criterion cannot appeal to the alleged irrelevance of Biblical texts on the grounds that the authors supposedly did not know of loving, committed homosexual unions and marriages in their day.  The evidence that these were present in antiquity is clear, and Paul, the preeminent traveller throughout the Roman Empire, would not have been unaware of this.

[1] Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1984), P. 139.  If it did not begin with him, he certainly was an early player misleading many at the time.
[2] See Barry Morgan, Presidential Address of the Archbishop of Wales to the Governing Body meeting at the University of Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, on 14 Sept 2016.  Online: (accessed 15 September, 2016).  I have written a response to Morgan: Rollin G. Grams, ‘Issues Facing Missions Today 59: Exercises in Simple Logic: A Response to the Archbishop of Wales’ Defense of Same-Sex Relationships,’ (15 September, 2016); online at
[3] E.g., Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (New York: Convergent Books, 2014).
[4] See Rollin G. Grams, ‘Christian Mission to the West: Sexual Orientation in Antiquity and Paul,’ (21 November, 2016); online at  Also see , S. Donald Fortson, III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016), ch. 15 (“‘Soft Men and “Homosexuals” in 1 Corinthians 6:9’) and ch. 16 (‘Homosexual Orientation in Antiquity and in Paul’s Writings’).
[5] Scholars were well situated for primary source research in the 1980s, so there really is no excuse for failed research at the end of the day.  Yet doing primary source research in an era of electronic resources is far easier than then.
[6] Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2006).  Search for serious primary source research in this work.  Without it, Rogers does not explode myths on the subject, he creates or perpetuates them.  A recent example of a theologian affirming the revisionist interpretation with claims of ‘what the Biblical texts say’ is Nicholas Wolterstorff.  His public lecture on the subject shows virtually no awareness of primary source scholarship, just dependence on other contemporary writers.  He seems to think that persuasion can be based more on the basis of his own authority as a theologian—indeed, one at a prestigious university—but as to scholarship, the lecture is woefully inadequate.  (Of course, university audiences these days, with their need for ‘safe spaces’ and cry-ins, tend to evaluate the persuasiveness of lectures on the basis of authorities saying the politically correct things and the emotional satisfaction they receive rather than the adequacy of proofs for a thesis.  Wolterstorff was, no doubt, persuasive to a number of persons in his audience.)  See: Nicholas Wolterstorff, ‘All One Body.’ Online lecture: (accessed: October 13, 2016).
[7] Victor Paul Furnish, The Moral Teachings of Paul: Selected Issues, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1985).
[8] Aristotle, Politics, trans. Ernest Barker, revised R. F. Stalley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
[9] Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians, trans. E. C. Marchant, G. W. Bowersock (Loeb Classical Library 183; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.  The Lacedaimonians were a Spartan tribe and, according to Xenophon, opposed to pederasty.  Boeotia is in central Greece, and the Eleians were in northern Greece, i.e., Thessaly.  The marriage-like arrangement would have been a ‘committed’ relationship and perhaps ‘loving’, but later heterosexual marriage followed the arrangement.
[10] Cicero, Philippics (Fragments), trans. John T. Ramsey (Loeb Classical Library 507; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010).
[11] Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, trans. Robert Graves (Penguin, 1965).  One gets the sense from this text that Sporus was simply brutally abused but that Doryphorus was complicit.  Nevertheless, the point to take away is that antiquity discussed same-sex marriage, whether loving or not—and in this case, probably both.  The emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Galba, Hadrian, and Elagabalus (who also married his lover, see below) all had male lovers.
[12] Martial, Epigrams, trans. D. R. Shackleton Bailey (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).
[13] Juvenal, Satires, trans. Susanna Morton Braund (Loeb Classical Library 91; Cambridge: Harvard university Press, 2004.
[14] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, trans. F. E. Robbins (Loeb Classical Library 435; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940).
[15] See Lucian, A True Story, The Works of Lucian, trans. A. M. Harmon (Loeb Classical Library 14; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913).
[16] Aelius Lampridius, Historia Augusta 17.  Elagabalus, trans. David Magie (Loeb Classical Library 140; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1924.
[17] Plutarch, Moralia.  Dialogue on Love, trans. W. C. Helmbold (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961).  This whole section is about adult ,male, homosexual lovers.
[18] Clyde Pharr, The Theodosian Code and Novels, and the Sirmondian Constitutions (Union, NJ: The Lawbook Exchange, 2001), p. 232.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Christian Mission to the West: Observations on Homosexual Orientation in Antiquity


The subject of sexual orientation in antiquity is discussed here as a topic of a 'mission to the West' because recent, revisionist interpretations of the Church's consistent teaching on homosexuality through the millenia undermine the Gospel that a culture going through its own revisions and becoming increasingly post-Christian needs to hear: God transforms sinful human beings through the good news of Jesus Christ.  Even sinful orientations, entrenched as they are (Aristotle called them, among other things, 'states of character'), can be transformed.  Here, the subject is that Paul would have known about the idea of sexual orientation since his culture did.  Thus, he does not oppose homosexuality in ignorance of orientation--as though we know more today and can therefore ignore Paul's teaching.

John Shelby Spong believed, along with any number of other persons discussing Christianity and homosexuality, that the ancient world knew nothing of sexual orientation.  This was one of his key arguments in trying to revise the Church’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin:

any reference to same-sex practice by a Biblical writer or a Greco-Roman writer has no knowledge or understanding of the concept of “same-sex orientation.” There is no Hebrew or Greek cognate word in the Biblical text to reflect the modern term “same-sex orientation” or “homosexuality.” Moreover, there were no discussions or arguments concerning sexual orientation in the ancient and late ancient world, conversations that would only arrive in the modern era of psychology. Instead, ancient writers believed any wanton sexual behavior of any variety is a mismanagement of one’s appetites. The apostle Paul, in the New Testament, follows this pattern.’[1]

Victor Paul Furnish concurred:

The ancient writers were operating without the vaguest idea of what we have learned to call “sexual orientation.”[2]

This view, like certain other views about what ancient writers at the time of Scripture supposedly did not know (such as loving, committed homosexual unions in antiquity), can only be held by those who have failed at the scholarly task of researching primary sources in antiquity.  Sadly, one finds this misrepresentation of the early Christians' social context among 'scholars' often enough.  The following essay summarizes material mentioned in Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition and in an earlier article, but it also offers a few other quotations of interest for this subject.[3]

1. Sexual Diversity Already in Youth

Martial mentions developing orientations in youth: a heterosexual youth (?), a transgender boy, a homosexually active youth [pederasty?], ‘soft’/effeminate boy wanting to be more masculine, effeminate boy from earliest childhood:

Martial, Epigrams XII.75: Polytimus is hurrying to the girls, Hymnus doesn’t like admitting that he’s a boy, Secundus has buttocks acornsated [receives anal sex], Didymus is effeminate (mollis) but doesn’t want to be, Amphion could have been born a girl….

2. Romantic Love (not just sexual gratification) in Pederasty

In our day, pedophilia is generally considered a matter of sexual deviancy.  In antiquity, love of grown men for boys was not only thought of in terms of sexual desire but also in the same way as heterosexual romance—attraction, desire, and romantic love.  Here is one major difference between pedophilia and pederasty.  Plato explored the ideal of love itself, in either heterosexuality or homosexuality (in this case, pederasty) (cf. Phaedrus)In pederasty, argued Plato’s character Pausanias in the Symposium, a higher love—a celestial love that was wholly male—proved superior to love between a man and a woman.  This love went beyond sexual indulgence, and the discussion goes beyond any limitation of male love to boys.  Such philosophical arguments demonstrate that love and sex were understood in far deeper ways than just acts or pederasty, and the discussion of a male love moves firmly in the direction of the notion of sexual orientation.  As Virgil says,

Cruel Alexis, heed you naught my songs?
Have you no pity? You’ll drive me to my death….
…. beauteous boy (Virgil, Eclogue II).[4]

3. Medical Theory / Physiognomy and Dispositions / Orientations

In the 4th century BC—well before the New Testament authors wrote—Aristotle noted that the homosexual’s nature was expressed in particular behaviors.  Homosexuality was not considered merely in terms of an act—it was a whole way of life that could be related to physical characteristics.  He says,

Physiognomonica 6: Shrill, soft, broken tones mark the speech of the pathic, for such a voice is found in women and is congruous with the pathic’s nature.[5]

Temperaments and attractions were also the subject of medical theory in antiquity.  The 2nd century medical author, Galen, built on earlier theories about the relation between body types and temperament.  The phlegmatic person could be a soft male.  Maria Michela Sassi summarizes one of the orientations that Galen identified (cf. Opera Omnia 13.662):

the phlegmatic and cold/wet categories include the constitutions (all of them soft and white) of women, children, fair-skinned men, eunuchs, and peoples that live in cold regions.[6] 

Kyle Harper’s recent examination of primary sources reaches the similar conclusion that

folk belief had long held that women were underheated and incompletely formed men: moist, clammy, the female body had been contrived by nature to play its role in the continuous regeneration of the species, ‘born to be penetrated.

For men, too, manliness was a matter of degree, and the insufficiently masculinized male became damp, soft, and, in extreme cases, an “androgyne” [man-woman].[7]  The attempt to relate body types to sexual preference was an attempt to explore sexual orientation in antiquity.

4. Astrology and Sexual Orientation

Astrology is the attempt to explain human orientations and events with reference to the movement of the planets and stars.  In antiquity, it also tried to explain sexual orientation, including homosexuality.  The following explanation of natural and unnatural sexual orientation from the perspective of astrology uses terminology (‘against nature’ and ‘according to nature’) also found in Paul—that is, the language for orientation was well established.  (Of course, Paul did not follow the astrological explanation for orientation.)
Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos III.14.171-172: But if likewise Mars [planet/god of war] or Venus [planet/goddess of love] as well, either one of them or both, is made masculine, the males become addicted to natural [kata physin] sexual intercourse, and are adulterous, insatiate, and ready on every occasion for base and lawless acts of sexual passion, while the females are lustful for unnatural congresses [para physin—also Paul’s phrase in Romans 1.26], cast inviting glances of the eye, and are what we call tribades; for they deal with females and perform the functions of males [andrōn erga]. If Venus alone is constituted in a masculine manner, they do these things secretly and not openly. But if Mars likewise is so constituted, without reserve, so that sometimes they even designate the women with whom they are on such terms as their lawful “wives.
5. Philosophy, Mythology, and Sexual Orientation

There was a significant difference between Platonic and Stoic philosophy on the issue of homosexuality.  Platonic philosophy, as already noted, thought in terms of ideals, such as Beauty and Love, whereas Stoic philosophy thought in terms of living according to nature.  Thus, Platonism could idealize love for teenage boys and preference it over sex with women if the attraction was the ideal of Beauty and not purely physical lust.  Stoic philosophers, such as Musonius Rufus and Epictetus, on the other hand, saw homosexuality as ‘contrary to nature’ (Paul’s term, too, in Rom. 1.26).  Plutarch, for example, saw homosexual orientation as an internal disorder peculiar to humans and not found in other animals:[8]

Not even Nature [physis], with Law [nomos] for her ally, can keep within bounds the unchastened vice of your hearts; but as though swept by the current of their lusts beyond the barrier at many points, men do such deeds as wantonly outrage Nature, upset her order, and confuse her distinctions (Plutarch, Whether Beasts are Rational 7).
In Romans 1.18-28, Paul, too, argues from nature that idolatry and homosexuality are against the Creator’s design.

However, a natural argument might also be turned in favor of homosexual orientation if one argues for different ‘natures’ being created in the first place (a view contrary to Scripture, of course [cf. Gen. 1.27-28; Gen. 2.24]).  The pre-Platonic myth of the creation of more than two genders (males with a heterosexual orientation, females with a heterosexual orientation, males attracted to males, and females attracted to females) was mentioned in Plato’s Symposium.  The speaker, Aristophanes, says,[9]
Plato, Symposium 191: “Each of us, then, is but a tally of a man, since every one shows like a flat-fish the traces of having been sliced in two; and each is ever searching for the tally that will fit him. All the men who are sections of that composite sex that at first was called man-woman are woman-courters; our adulterers are mostly descended from that sex, [191e] whence likewise are derived our man-courting women and adulteresses. All the women who are sections of the woman have no great fancy for men: they are inclined rather to women, and of this stock are the she-minions. Men who are sections of the male pursue the masculine, and so long as their boyhood lasts they show themselves to be slices of the male by making friends with men and delighting [192a] to lie with them and to be clasped in men’s embraces; these are the finest boys and striplings, for they have the most manly nature….
6. The Acquisition of Homosexual Orientation through Social Factors

We should not limit the notion of ‘orientation’ to natural inclinations or biology in the arguments from antiquity.  The discussion of orientation is not only a biological one: it might also be a matter of nurture and therefore a concern of psychology and sociology.  This perspective, too, was well discussed in antiquity.  Plato, for example, suggested that a culture of unbridled sexual passion led to sexual deviancy against nature, and that this was encouraged by the introduction of the gymnasium into Greek society: [10]

Plato, Laws 1.636b-c: … this institution [the gymnasium, with its naked males], when of old standing, is thought to have corrupted the pleasures of love which are natural not to men only but also natural to beasts. For this your States [Lacedaemon and Crete] are held primarily responsible, and along with them all others [636c] that especially encourage the use of gymnasia. And whether one makes the observation in earnest or in jest, one certainly should not fail to observe that when male unites with female for procreation the pleasure experienced is held to be due to nature [kata physin], but contrary to nature [para physin] when male mates with male or female with female, and that those first guilty of such enormities were impelled by their slavery to pleasure.

Philo, a first century Jewish philosopher in the Platonic tradition, relates uncontrolled desire, socialization, and homosexual orientation: [11]

Philo, Abraham 1.135-136:… they were overcome by violent desire; 136 and so, by degrees, the men became accustomed to be treated like women, and in this way engendered among themselves the disease of females, an intolerable evil; for they not only, as to effeminacy and delicacy [malakotēti kai thrypsei], became like women in their persons
Herodotus, too, had earlier spoken of societies that took on certain practices that led to new orientations, including homosexuality:[12]

Herodotus, The Histories 1.135.1: But the Persians more than all men welcome foreign customs. They wear the Median dress, thinking it more beautiful than their own, and the Egyptian cuirass in war. Their luxurious practices are of all kinds, and all borrowed: the Greeks taught them pederasty.

The practice of pederasty, moreover, knew a variety of distinctions in antiquity—there were social and cultural distinctions that could be observed.  Xenophon, for example, distinguishes three different practices:[13]

Xenophon, The Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 2.12: I think I ought to say something about intimacy with boys, since this matter also has a bearing on education. In other Greek states, for instance among the Boeotians, man and boy live together, like married people; elsewhere, among the Eleians, for example, consent is won by means of favours. Some, on the other hand, entirely forbid suitors to talk with boys.

Sextus Empiricus noted different social attitudes towards pederasty, and in so doing identified the cultural contribution to sexual orientations (as we also find, note, in Genesis 19.9):[14]

Outlines of Pyrrhonism 3:198-200: For example, amongst us sodomy is regarded as [199] shameful or rather illegal, but by the Germanic they say, it is not looked on as shameful but as a customary thing. It is said, too, that in Thebes long ago this practice was not held to be shameful, and they say that Meriones the Cretan was so called by way of indicating the Cretans’ custom, and some refer to … the burning love of Achilles for Patroclus. And [200] what wonder, when both the adherents of the Cynic philosophy and the followers of Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes and Chrysippus, declare that this practice is indifferent?

7. Artistic Temperament and Homosexual Orientation

As today, the argument for sexual orientation in antiquity was also made with respect to artistic temperament.  Aristophanes represents this view with respect to homosexual orientation in his play, Women at the Thesmophoria:

Women at the Thesmophoria 1.35.159ff: Besides, it is bad taste for a poet to be coarse and hairy. Look at the famous Ibycus, at Anacreon of Teos, and at Alcaeus, who handled music so well; they wore head-bands and found pleasure in the lascivious and dances of Ionia. And have you not heard what a dandy Phrynichus was and how careful in his dress? For this reason his pieces were also beautiful, for the works of a poet are copied from himself.

Softness (womanliness) and poetic talent in a man, the argument goes, go together.

8. Unrestrained (Natural) Sexual Desire Becoming Unnatural Desire

The following quotations show that the notion that lust is not merely to be thought of in terms of quantitative desire but also qualitative desire—desire that goes beyond natural boundaries.  This point now needs to be emphasized, since James Brownson has suggested that Paul’s concern in Romans 1.26-27 is about unrestrained lust, not unnatural, homosexual practice: the distinction is artificial.[15]

Philo, Abraham 1.135-136 … they were overcome by violent desire; 136 and so, by degrees, the men became 
accustomed to be treated like women, and in this way engendered among themselves the disease of females, an intolerable evil; for they not only, as to effeminacy and delicacy [malakotēti kai thrypsei], became like women in their persons….

Plutarch, Whether Beasts are Rational 7 Not even Nature [physis], with Law [nomos] for her ally, can keep within bounds the unchastened vice of your hearts; but as though swept by the current of their lusts beyond the barrier at many points, men do such deeds as wantonly outrage Nature, upset her order, and confuse her distinctions.

9.     A Corrupted Nature/Orientation

The notion of a sexual orientation is discussed in literature that focusses on the corruption of nature.  Ancient philosophy made the discussion of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ a major subject of debate.  (The topic will be explored in more detail at a later date.)  Consider Plutarch’s comments about the nature of animals and humans in his work on love:

Plutarch, De Amore Prolis [On Affection for Offspring] 493B-E: … we seek among horses and dogs and birds how we ourselves should marry and beget and bring up children (as though we had no plain indication of Nature in ourselves) and that we term the traits which brute beasts have “characters” and “emotions,” and accuse our life of a great deviation and departure from Nature [kata physin], confused and disordered as we are at the very beginning concerning even the first principles? For in dumb animals Nature preserves their special characteristics pure and unmixed and simple, but in men, through reason and habit, they have been modified by many opinions and adventitious judgements so that they have lost their proper form and have acquired a pleasing variety comparable to the variety of perfumes made by the pharmacist on the basis of a single oil. And let us not wonder if irrational animals follow Nature more closely than rational ones; for animals are, in fact, outdone in this by plants, to which Nature has given neither imagination nor impulse, nor desire for something different, which causes men to shake themselves free from what Nature desires; but plants, as though they were fastened in chains, remain in the power of Nature, always traversing the one path along which Nature leads them. Yet in wild beasts versatility of reasoning and uncommon cleverness and excessive love of freedom are not too highly developed; and though they have irrational impulses and desires and often wander about on circuitous paths, they do not go far afield, but ride, as it were, at the anchor provided by Nature, who points out to them the straight way, as to an ass which proceeds under bit and bridle. But in man ungoverned reason is absolute master, and, discovering now one way of deviation and innovation and now another, has left no clear or certain vestige of Nature visible.

10.  The Designation of Certain Males as ‘Soft’

As with the previous point, there is much literature that could be cited in reference to ‘soft males’, a term (malakos) that Paul uses in his sin list in 1 Corinthians 6.9.  The point here is that this is an ‘orientation’ term, not a term that has to do only with acts.[16]

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics 7.5-7: One who is deficient in resistance to pains that most men withstand with success, is soft [malakos] or luxurious (for Luxury is a kind of Softness): such a man lets his cloak trail on the ground to escape the fatigue and trouble of lifting it, or feigns sickness, not seeing that to counterfeit misery is to be miserable…. But we are surprised when a man is overcome by pleasures and pains which most men are able to withstand, except when his failure to resist is due to some innate tendency [dia physin tou genous], or to disease: instances of the former being the hereditary effeminacy [malakia] of the royal family of Scythia, and the inferior endurance of the female sex as compared with the male.

11.  The Existence of Homosexual Unions and Marriages

This is a subject not fully explored in the literature.  Those arguing that Paul knew nothing of loving, committed homosexual relationships in his day are simply claiming things they really know nothing about.  I shall present this evidence at a later point but will offer one of the relevant quotations from antiquity on the matter.  The presence of such texts demonstrates that Paul argued against homosexual practices in a context that did know of homosexual marriage or unions.  Consider Juvenal on this:

Juvenal, Satire II: I have a ceremony to attend,” quoth one, “at dawn to-morrow, in the Quirinal valley.” “What is the occasion?” “No need to ask: a friend is taking to himself a husband; quite a small affair.” Yes, and if we only live long enough, we shall see these things done openly: people will wish to see them reported among the news of the day. Meanwhile these would-be brides have one great trouble: they can bear no children wherewith to keep the affection of their husbands; well has nature done in granting to their desires no power over their bodies.


The discussion of sexual orientation, including homosexual orientation, was present in antiquity and is not some modern discovery through the social sciences.  A variety of views were offered to explain the sexual orientation that some have for same-sex relationships.  This orientation was expressed not only in terms of the desire for an act of same-sex intercourse: it was also discussed in terms of orientation.  As I argue in Unchanging Witness,[17] Paul, too thought in terms of both homosexual orientation and acts when he stated in consistent interpretation of the Old Testament that this was sinful. 

He also thought in terms of nature and nurture.  He offered a religious and moral interpretation of homosexuality.  At the root of his understanding of sexuality stood convictions about God’s order in creation and human sinfulness.  He also offered hope for change through the transforming grace of God in Jesus Christ’s liberating death to sin and resurrection to new life.  Thus, one cannot argue that Paul’s views on homosexuality can be dismissed because antiquity knew nothing of sexual (including homosexual) orientation.  Indeed, antiquity had much to say on the subject.  Nor can one argue that Paul would have counselled someone struggling with same-sex attraction simply to avoid acting out such desires.  His view, as expressed in detail in his letter to the Romans, of the transforming power of God in the Gospel of Jesus’ Christ’s death and resurrection was far bigger than that.[18]

[1] Lee Jefferson, ‘What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gay Marriage?’ A New Christianity for a New World (30 June, 2011).  Online: (accessed 10 November 2016).  This website promotes Spong’s views.
[2] Victor Paul Furnish, The Moral Teachings of Paul: Selected Issues, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1985), p. 85.
[3] See further, S. Donald Fortson, III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016).
[4] The Internet Classics Archive by Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics 1994-2000. Accessed 4 May, 2011:
[5] The Works of Aristotle, trans. T. Loveday and E. S. Forster, ed. W. D. Ross, Vol. VI (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913).
[6] Ibid., p. 158.
[7] Kyle Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Harvard University Press, 2013), p. 33.
[8] Plutarch, Moralia, trans. Harold Cherniss and William C. Hembold (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957).
[9] Plato in Twelve Volumes, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 9, translated by Harold N. Fowler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925).
[10] Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 10, translated by R.G. Bury (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1967 & 1968).
[11] The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus, trans. C. D. Yonge, 4 vols. (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854-55).
[12] Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920).
[13] Xenophon in Seven Volumes, 7, Loeb Classical Library, trans. E. C. Marchant and G. W. Bowersock (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Rev ed. 1925; William Heinemann, Ltd., London. 1984).
[14] Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Pyrrhonism, trans. R. G. Bury (Loeb Classical Library 273; Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1933).  Also, a Sibylline Oracle (3.595-600) states that the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persians, Galatians, and the people of Asia Minor practiced pederasty. Plato, too, suggests that same-sex eroticism, particularly pederasty, arose among the Cretans (Laws 1.636b-c). Philo argued that the love of boys was a social development (Special Laws 3.37-42). Plutarch speaks of the practice as particularly notable among the Spartans (Lycurgus 17.1; 18.4).
[15] James Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013).pp. 155-156, 166, 172, 178.
[16] See further, S. Donald Fortson, III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness, ch. 15.
[17] S. Donald Fortson and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness.  See especially chapters 16, 17, and 18.
[18] For a detailed discussion of Paul’s theology of the power of the Gospel and transforming grace, See Ibid., chapters 17 and 18.