The Clobber Verses

LGBTQ+ Welcome and the Bible

The Clobber Verses

But the Bible Says ...!

On Sunday, February 12, we began a four-week Bible Study series on LGBTQ+ Welcome and the Bible. The third session – held on Sunday, February 26 – examined what are commonly called “The Clobber Verses.” Each week we will publish Pastor Chris’ notes from these Bible Studies. These notes are edited and updated following the class. Still, these notes are not fully fleshed out essays, and they are certainly not everything that can be said about these important topics.


Today we are looking at the “clobber verses” – the small handful of Bible passages that are frequently used to reject, shame, and condemn homosexuality and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that there are plenty of norms and practices that we have in today’s society which are not found in the Bible – norms that we find good, and holy, and life-giving. Norms such as consent, dating, marrying for love, etc.

We also have certain understandings and knowledge that the Biblical generations did not have – gender equality in church and society; the possibility and beauty of mutual, loving same sex relationships; biological/scientific insights into human sexuality; and more.

Importantly for this discussion, the Biblical generations did not conceive of the possibility and beauty of mutual, loving, same sex relationships. As such, the few Bible verses that seem to address same sex intimacy need to be examined to understand if the activity they are referring to is comparable to today’s mutual, loving, same sex relationships.

Finally – and this is important –when we seek Biblical guidance on matters of ethics we look for threads that weave and themes that repeat throughout Scripture. We do not base our ethics or theologies on a small handful of disjointed bible verses or isolated ideas. That’s now how Christian ethics works. That’s not how good theology works. We look for patterns that repeat throughout Scripture.

We will take a look at some of the most common “clobber verses,” and ask, “Is this this verse or passage sufficient to condemn mutual, loving same sex relationships?” In each instance, the answer to that question is “no.” Read on to see why that’s the case.


Dive into Scripture

Genesis 19

 Sodom and Gomorrah

We spent some time looking at this passage two weeks ago, in our overview lesson of Christianity and Human Sexuality. Check out those notes for more information.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is fundamentally about the failure to extend hospitality.

The same-sex sexual activity referred to in this passage is violent gang rape.

Violent gang rape is not the same as mutual, loving same sex relationships.

Is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah a condemnation of mutual, loving same sex relationships? No.


It is unlawful for a man to lay with a man

Discussion Stater: First, open to any chapter of the book of Leviticus, and quickly scan through it. What are you reading? What kind of world are you imagining these rules are intended to govern? How similar or different does this world feel from ours?

Leviticus is a book of laws – of laws about worship, ritual, and sacrifices, and laws about family, economics, sexuality, and community. This book reveals that ancient Jewish society was highly ordered and highly regulated, intended to set Jews apart from neighboring tribes and peoples.

There’s a a general prohibition on “mixing” – Leviticus 19:19, for example, cites prohibitions on breeding animals of different kinds, on mixing two kinds of seeds to plant in a field, and of sewing two different fabrics into a garment to be worn. This is part of the call to keep separate and distinctive as God’s chosen people.

Leviticus reflects an ancient worldview, parts of which modern Christians (and Jews!) no longer accept as normative (for example, we would go to a dermatologist for a skin disease, not necessary visit a priest for examination; and, neither Christians nor Jews practice animal or grain offerings, despite Leviticus providing several chapters on the topic). Yet, we don’t remove such rules or books from the Bible. Instead, we seek to understand these passages in their contexts.


Scan chapters 18 and 20; what’s going on these chapters?

A concern for a certain kind of sexual purity; limits on sexual practices

Seems odd that some of these rules even needed to be said!

These chapters are part of a larger section in Leviticus often referred to as the Holiness Codes, Leviticus 17-26. The Holiness Codes include a variety of laws intended to guide the people to “be holy as the LORD your God is holy.” It is a call to live as people set apart from neighboring nations by distinctive economic, social, sexual, and family practices.


What about these two verses and their prohibition on male same sex intimacy?

The ancients believed that semen contained everything, or most, of what is needed for life -thus “wasting” semen was understood as a grave offense against God (on wasting semen, see Genesis 38:1-10). In this way, two men engaged in sex was understood as offensive to God as it could not result in pregnancy.

Also, the ancient concern about mixing (not to mix two kinds of seed in a field or wear clothing made of two different kinds of fabric, etc.) comes into play here. Perhaps the concern with male same sexual intimacy has to do with “mixing” men with men against the norm of male-female sexual intimacy.

Male same sex intimacy can place a man in a receptive position, otherwise seen as the role of a woman in sexual intimacy. This would be another kind of “mixing” (in this case, of gender roles) that would generally be prohibited in ancient Israel and seen as shameful.

Yet, Leviticus is not concerned with sexual intimacy between two women. Perhaps the experience of women was simply overlooked – as was common in patriarchal societies. Likely, the prohibition on male same sex intimacy has to do with non-procreative seminal emissions and/or with the concerns about “mixing.”

These verses do not address love or mutuality, but simply address some of the “mechanics” of same sex intimate acts, based on perspectives most modern Christians (and most modern Jews) no longer hold.

Furthermore, Christianity has long held onto Leviticus loosely, recognizing that its laws were written for a very different time and place. Laws about sacrifices, rituals, bodily emissions, food, skin health, and more are generally not followed by Christians.

Instead, the laws that most clearly speak to Christians today from Leviticus are those that echo the prophets, Jesus, and New Testament writings on love of neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), care for the poor (Leviticus 19:11-13; 25:35-55), and hospitality to the outsider (Leviticus 19:33-34; 23:22).


Do Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 condemn mutual, loving same sex relationships? No.

Unnatural intercourse

Discussion Stater: Scan Romans 1:18-2:1

1:18-20, God can be observed in nature

1:21-23, people rejected what they could know of God

1:24-25, God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts

1:26-27, they engaged in “unnatural” sex

1:28-32, they engaged in all kinds of sinful activities

2:1, we all engage in sinful activities


There were two common, public examples of same-sex intimacy known in the ancient world:

pederasty, the abuse of boys by esteemed men

temple cults related to Greek and other pagan gods sometimes included temple prostitutes and same-sex cultic sex acts

Sexual norms held at the time held that women took passive roles in sexual intimacy, and men took more active roles. Thus, same sex male intimacy required at least one of the male partners to be passive/receptive, and same sex female intimacy required at least one of the partners to be active – roles that were seen as shameful in that time period and culture.

Sexual sins are just one of the long list of “things that should not be done” (Romans 1:28). That list includes murder, gossip, and rebelliousness toward parents.

Does Romans 1:26-28 condemn mutual, loving same sex relationships? No.


Men who engage in illicit sex are condemned

The word ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoites) is sometimes translated as “homosexual” or “sodomite.” It is a word that appears only twice in the entire Bible – in these two lists of “wrongdoers who will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9).

It’s a word that isn’t in common use in contemporaneous Greek literature, and at least one newer translation of the Bible puts footnote for this word which reads, “meaning of Greek uncertain” (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition).

The precise meaning of this word is uncertain, but likely refers to some sort of male same sex intimacy. Again, most of the known same sex activity at that time was violent, abusive, or otherwise idolatrous – nothing like what we know today of mutual, loving same sex relationships.

The other types of wrongdoers named in 1 Corinthians 6 include thieves, robbers, and the greedy. The list in 1 Timothy 1 includes murderers, slave traders, and “whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.”

Both passages speak condemningly of a certain class of people. If you keep reading – and we should always keep reading – both passages quickly move into a section on redemption.

 In 1 Corinthians Paul continues: “And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

 In 1 Timothy, Paul follows up his list of outlaws with his owns story of redemption. “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 1:13-14).

Do 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 condemn mutual, loving same sex relationships? No.


These verses do not address what we know of today as mutual, loving, same sex relationships. Any prohibitions on same sex intimacy, to the extent that we can even call them such, are rooted in norms and understandings regarding sexuality and biology that we no longer embrace. Our world is not the ancient world, thankfully. As 21st century Christians, we need to apply what we know of the Christian faith’s central themes (see final segment of the first lesson in this series) and apply those themes to our most intimate and personal relationships.

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